In January 2009, the county executive and county board handed me the responsibility of running the House of Correction (HOC). They based this decision on my executive level experience and the success I had in turning around the Sheriff’s Office when I was first elected in 2002. Their objective was to have me straighten out the HOC, which the National Institute of Corrections described as a disaster of a facility.
I’m an agent of change management and would apply the same formula with the HOC as I had to the Sheriff’s Office. I took a full year to assess inmate programming, and concluded that the programming they were using was abysmal, due to the fact that 70% of those serving time at the facility were rearrested within three years of release. That is simply unacceptable, not to mention expensive.
I have designed a new model that will reduce the likelihood that inmates will return to their communities the same dysfunctional people they were when they were arrested. They will have a better chance at thriving in neighborhoods that are full of temptations and opportunities to re-offend. My model focuses on self-discipline, self-determination, respect for authority, respect for others, order, structure, persistence, honesty and most important, the ability to overcome temptation, hardship and obstacles in a sometimes unfair world.
I have proposed a better idea, one that moves our inmate training program into the 21st Century; one that will equip them with skills that employers are looking for. The tech sector is the fastest growing job sector not only in the United States but in the world. I want to abandon the obsolete skills training with something that today’s employers are demanding.
One of the new training programs we’re going to add is a computer skills course. A person’s success in the new information technology economy is going to depend on one’s knowledge and expertise in computer skills. The computer has become the engine of the new economy and if an inmate really wants to give him/herself a chance to compete in today’s labor market, then they have to be able to confidently master the use of a computer. For instance, good-paying jobs not affected by seasonal fluctuations are available now for people with skills in data processing.
More and more companies are allocating a bigger piece of their overall budget to build and expand their information technology systems because it is playing a bigger role in their ability to compete in the new economy. That means they will expand their hiring in this area. It means that people who possess computer skills will be in demand. That’s how I want to give a released inmate a better chance to find work and stay out of the revolving door of the criminal justice system!
Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.