WorkSource Montgomery, in partnership with Montgomery County Correctional Center, operates a nationally-recognized Re-Entry initiative within the correctional facility. Montgomery County was one of the first centers in the country to operate within a maximum security correctional facility, and has been used as a national model for pre-release Career Centers.
A driving principle of the Center is the acknowledgement that ex-offenders have different needs than typical job seekers; they often have many more barriers to employment success. Specialized interventions are required for this population to compete on a level playing field among other job seekers. The program design, staff training, and physical lay-out of the center are all key factors that contribute to the effectiveness of the center.
Key themes include return on investment (ROI) and transformation. Participants are encouraged to commit to building themselves into strong candidates who will offer an employer a high ROI. This aspect of the training emphasizes the language and culture of business. Secondarily, participants are persuaded that personal transformation is a core requirement for their future success.
Customers are equal partners in the process; not recipients of services due to personal deficits. Staff members are referred to as “coaches.” Coaches provide training, guidance, and drill exercises while the customer himself is responsible to put in the needed effort toward measurable success. This approach encourages independence and personal empowerment versus dependence on staff members.
For inmates that are not eligible to participate while incarcerated, the center has created a monthly “Welcome Home” session that explains available services and refers them to their local community-based American Job Center. The center has a 20-week curriculum that customers work through and receive a certificate of completion for each module.
Staff work with eligible individuals to help offenders transition into the workforce. Staff is also located weekly in the Wheaton Job Center to support ex-offenders after release. This allows for seamless merging of ex-offenders into the pool of non-offender job seekers engaged at the community-based centers.
An Employer Perspective
Many employers experiencing labor shortages consider their number one challenge is to identify, attract and retain employees. To address these needs, employers are increasing their applicant pool by looking at individuals with criminal histories. Employed ex-offenders are some of the most dedicated and productive employees. They are overwhelmingly dependable and punctual and the turnover rate is atypically low.
Individuals served are eager to get a job and lead a productive life. Without a job it is nearly impossible for these individuals to establish a new life and become productive citizens. Hiring an ex-offender can help them integrate into society so they can become a taxpayer instead of a tax burden.
Employers who hire ex-offenders may be eligible for the Federal Bonding Program. The Federal Bonding Program benefits the employer by offering bond coverage provided at no cost. The bond coverage is in effect the day the new employee begins working and continues for a six-month period. The employer profits from the worker’s skills and abilities without taking the risk of potential theft or dishonesty. There are no documents to sign or paperwork to complete. The bond has no deductible and reimburses the employer for any loss due to employee theft within the specified six-month period.