Describe any collaboration with local and county correctional facilities

WEST ABE is fortunate enough to have three county jails in our service area, Wright, Benton and Stearns, who recently moved from a vendor to a full member of our consortium in 2017.  In early May, 2019, McLeod County Jail contacted the ABE Manager to see if they too could become a member of WEST. A meeting is set for June 6th. They lie within our consortium boundaries.  In the county jails, the Program Coordinator is the person that oversees ABE programming and is part of our Management Team.

In a county jail our biggest issue is the length of stay of inmates.  It is extremely difficult for an inmate to get to the 40-hour mark, hence posttesting and gaining measurable skills is a challenge.  In a county jail, an inmate can stay a maximum of 180 days after sentencing, where they are almost immediately transferred to a prison or released.  It may take them a while to be assigned a court date for their sentencing, and this is where we try to capture their interest and entice them to programming.  We are attempting to address this in many ways. In the Wright County Jail, programs are incentivized. The students are given a blank “passport” and receive a stamp from each different program that they attend, from our Financial Literacy class to the ABE classroom to Narcotics Anonymous.  When the student gets 8 new stamps, the inmate is given a free coffee. The success of this program is unbelievable, garnering many new faces in our classrooms and added contact hours. At Stearns County Jail in April and May we have been piloting new programming hours, extending to Saturday and Sundays, 8:00 – 5:00 and Thursday evenings until 11:00 p.m.  It is pulling in many students on the weekend and will be continued in to June and as long as there is interest. This is another example of how we are attempting to get more students to the 40-hour post-test time frame.

In Wright County, one of our ABE teacher approached several judges to ask if they can make “getting a GED” part of their sentencing or probation and several judges complied.

GED testing is in its infancy stage in accordance to the jails.  Monticello is an official Pearson Vue testing site. The day the student is to test, a proctor comes to the official GED testing center, the test is downloaded onto a laptop computer.  The proctor then takes the computer to the jail and administers the test to the student. After the test is complete the proctor returns to Monticello’s GED testing center and uploads the test to Pearson Vue where it is graded and results calculated.  WEST purchased 4 computers in 2018 with this intent as well as a computer for the proctor. The computers can only be used for GED purposes. WE have 4 Proctors trained and certified, but as of yet we have not had a student ready to take the official GED, but we are prepared.

Program Hours:
Wright County Jail:Monday – Friday

8:45 – 11:45 a.m.

12:30 – 4:00 p.m.

Stearns County Jail:Monday – Friday (sans Thursday) 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Benton County Jail:Monday – Friday

8:15 – 12:00

12:30 – 3:30

   

Contact Hours for program year 2018-2019Annual Contribution to WEST ABE   
Benton County Jail:6,366.50$2,000
Wright County Jail:15,106.75$5,000
Stearns County Jail:13,889.75$2,000

Inmate participation in ABE at the County Jails is voluntary.  On average for the 3 jails, ABE is offered in a morning session and an afternoon session five days a week, with room for 15-20 students per session depending on the site.  Typically, in the course of a month, 60-70 different students may have come through the classroom. There is no internet accessibility available in any county jail classroom.

A typical class session may be described as a “one-room schoolhouse” with each student engaged in a different activity.  Some come to class to work on a resume; others come to devote time to study for a GED, to brush up on basic skills, to write a letter to the judge, to study English, or to work on computer-related skills. Some students, with instructor assistance, devise their own independent project like creating a business plan. Some students are fairly set in their goals and work/study skills and others seem to require significant guidance and instruction.

As with any adult education class, consideration is given for the culture of the inmate students, individual interests, and varied adult learning styles. In the County Jail ABE/Skills class, “culture” is not limited to ethnic background. Here “culture” awareness for the instructor includes, but is not limited to:

  • an increased knowledge of criminal and civil Statutes and Rules and how to assist students in researching the same an awareness of the legal process and jail rules/boundaries
  • an exposure to legal language, street language, and developing an understanding of factors that contribute to and sustain criminal behavior

The classroom offers some innovative learning opportunities to address some of that baggage and hopefully increase self-esteem while relieving some anxiety.   Herein come the Independent Study Projects that incorporate the basics of critical reading and writing, research skills, computer skills, goal setting, and organization; all of which have resulted in growth, positive outcomes, and increased life skills.

Some examples of students’ accomplishments include:

  1. Annually submitted writings and art-work to Journey’s and been published.
  2. Submitted writings for independent publishing to a nationally known organization for women called We Learn
  3. Authored a book
  4. Written and illustrated books for their own children
  5. Developed an illustrated calendar and submitted it for publishing
  6. Completed successful business plans
  7. Written legally binding Wills and Powers of Attorney
  8. Compiled literary portfolios
  9. Successfully written, served and filed legal civil motions to address child support issues, child custody matters, parenting time issues, marriage dissolution,  forfeiture of personal property.
  10. Successfully initiated and maintained written contact with school personnel/human services personnel on behalf of the inmate’s own minor children to address services for the child through ISPs (Individual Service Plans) and IEPs (Individual Education Plans).  In the process the inmate student has often times altered the negative paradigm these professionals may have had of him/her.
  11. Completed Anger Management Course (at times this is part of their parole)
  12. Completed the Financial Literacy Course

WEST has an exciting new program coming to the jails.  One of our Stearns County Jail teachers is a former construction business owner and our intent is to use future Transition Funding dollars to bring OSHA classes to our jail sites.  The dollars would pay for the actual college credit. We are currently in contact with St. Cloud Technical and Community College (SCTCC) to see if he can get certified to be an adjunct professor so that the class is worth college credit. (Adjunct professors are hired by schools on a contractual, part-time basis as opposed to the traditional university model of full-time employment.)   WEST has gone this route before with a FastTrack grant where our Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) teacher was approved by the university and students received credit.  Our intent would then be to have the teacher hold the same class across our other jail sites. This gives an inmate a skill where they have the potential to get an immediate job upon release.  Stearns County Jail has a list of local felon-friendly construction employers to start their search.