Why Are We Not Giving Women a Second Chance?

Are women in the United States more dangerous and prone to criminal activity than those in other countries?  Looking solely at criminal justice statistics, one may tend to believe this idea.  While incarceration rates for women have reached historic highs, women in this country are no more likely to be a threat to our society as they would be in any other country.  Why, then, has the U.S. disproportionately put women behind bars?

Decades of questionable criminal justice policies in our country have created a culture of over incarceration that is unmatched by any other nation.  We need to pay more attention to the plight of incarcerated women in order to ensure they are offered the same educational and workforce opportunities as men. The Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) recently conducted a survey of the competency levels of incarcerated adults. Amongst the data, they found that 85 percent of incarcerated women did not complete any form of education beyond a high school diploma or GED while incarcerated.[1]  Today’s economy is increasingly demanding and it is important that everyone is prepared to compete in it.  It is estimated that as early as 2018, nearly two-thirds of all job announcement will require applicants to have achieved some level of postsecondary education. [2]  We as a society cannot afford to continue to incarcerate our mothers, sisters, and daughters without giving them the proper resources for a second chance.

While only 5 percent of the world’s population of women live in the U.S., our country is home to almost 30 percent of the world’s incarcerated women (twice the percentage as China and four times as much as Russia).[3]  In fact, the top 44 jurisdictions of incarcerated women in the world are composed of individual U.S. states (with the exception of the U.S. as a whole and Thailand).[4]  Women represent the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population with an incarceration rate that is double that of men in the past 30 years.[5]  From 1980 to 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700 percent, from 26,378 in 1980 to 215,332 in 2014.[6]

This skyrocketing number of incarcerated women is clearly a problem. So how did we get here? While there is no single reason for this spike, however, the war on drugs is one possible explanation for the increase.  A zero tolerance anti-drug campaign combined with the adoption of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for drug offenses played a role in contributing to increased incarceration rates.  Women today are twice as likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses as they were in 1986 and almost twice as likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses as men.[7]

Increased contact with the justice system is not just a problem for adult women. The largest percentage of incarcerated girls are incarcerated due to status offenses (crimes that would not otherwise be classified as a crime for adults such as skipping school and running away) and technical violations.[8]  Entering the justice system at this young age may create a dangerous cycle of incarceration that is difficult to escape. This cycle can be exacerbated if proper intervention and support is not provided.

While this over-incarceration presents a serious problem for our country, a tremendous opportunity is also ahead of us.  Criminal justice reform is a topic that has sparked a bipartisan interest.   In 2014 and 2015 alone, 46 states enacted 201 bills, executive orders, and ballot propositions to reform some aspect of their criminal justice system.[9] While this is encouraging, it is important to point out that while the rates and population of incarcerated women have significantly increased, women represent only 7 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population today.[10]  It may be easy for a jurisdiction to overlook the alarming trends of incarcerated women if they look at their population in the aggregate.  As criminal justice reform continues, it is important that we take into account the unique challenges facing women when we design policies and interventions to enact these reforms.

Daniel Gaytan

Guest Blogger: Daniel Gaytan
Policy Analyst
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

Providing incarcerated women with the same educational and workforce resources that are currently available to men is an important and easy first step to reduce their chances of recidivating.  It is up to each of us in our communities, counties, and states to ensure that we are providing men and women the opportunity for successful reentry.  We know that incarcerated individuals who participate in correctional education are 43 percent less likely to recidivate and 58 percent more likely to find post-release employment than individuals who do not participate.[11]  It is time women are given equal access to these programs. 

[1] Rampey, B.D., Keiper, S., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Li, J., Thornton, N., and Hogan, J. (2016). Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training: Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies: 2014 (NCES 2016-040). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.  https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2016040.

[2] Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018 (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2010).

[3] Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon. Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System: Policy Strategies and Program Options (Civic Research Institute, 2006, 2011). https://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/.

[4] Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon.

[5] American Civil Liberties Union.  Facts about the Over-Incarceration of Women in the United States.   https://www.aclu.org/other/facts-about-over-incarceration-women-united-states 

[6] Carson, E.A. (2015). Prisoners in 2014. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

[7] Carson, E.A.

[8] Sickmund, M., Sladky, M., Kang, T.J., and Puzzanchera, C. (2015). Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

[9] Rebecca Silber, Ram Subramanian, and Maia Spotts. Justice in Review: New Trends in State Sentencing and Corrections 2014-2015. New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2016.

[10] Rampey, B.D., Keiper, S., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Li, J., Thornton, N., and Hogan, J.

[11] Davis, Lois M., Jennifer L. Steele, Robert Bozick, Malcolm Williams, Susan Turner, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Jessica Saunders and Paul S. Steinberg. How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here? The Results of a Comprehensive Evaluation. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2014. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR564.html, 15.

Responding to the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults

It is an unfortunate truth that our country incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation.  There are an estimated 2.2 million people incarcerated across the United States, compared to 500,000 just 30 years ago. The vast majority of incarcerated individuals will eventually leave prison and jail and reenter our society.  Becoming productive members of society, is just another challenge for a formerly incarcerated person to overcome in an increasingly competitive economy.  Today’s job market requires more advanced skills and industry recognized credentials than ever before. While no single solution may exist to assist justice involved individuals with reentry, correctional education has proven to be an effective tool.  In addition to helping individuals gain the skills they need for reentry, evidence suggests participating in correctional education programs decrease their chances of recidivating by 43%.[1]

On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), released a report, Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training: Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2014, assessing the skills, education and training of our incarcerated population.  This report provides us with fresh data on the current state of literacy and numeracy competencies of incarcerated adults in state and federal prisons in the U.S.  The data demonstrates the continued need to nurture rigorous and effective correctional education programs not only as a means for individuals to improve their situation, but also as an effective public safety measure.

Read Secretary King’s Dear Colleague letter to learn more about the report, and to find out about other measures ED is taking to ensure incarcerated and justice-involved individuals have a fair shot at a successful reentry.

[1] Davis, L. M., Bozick, R., Steele, J.L., Saunders, J. & Miles, J. N. V. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A MetaAnalysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html

Improved Reentry Education Grantee Recognized as a Model Program

On any given day, more than 60,000 young people under age 21 are confined in juvenile justice facilities throughout the United States.[1]

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recently released a multi-jurisdiction scan, identifying programs which address the developmental needs of young adults in the criminal justice system. NIJ  is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. Their mission is to advance scientific research, development, and evaluation to enhance the administration of justice and public safety.

OCTAE is pleased that one of the Improved Reentry Education grantees, UTEC, was highlighted as an organization which took an innovative approach to address these developmental needs of youth. NIJ describes the UTEC program as one that “has responded to a need in the community and the population served by developing in-house social enterprises in order to offer its participants a paid work experience in a supportive setting”. As part of their approach, UTEC conducts pre-release visits to individuals in correctional and juvenile justice facilities and also uses street outreach and gang peacemaking to connect with individuals. As youth progress through the program, they are paired with case management with a focus towards social enterprises and a resumption of education in the community.

Photo of Sean Addie

Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education, OCTAE

Guest Blogger, Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education, OCTAE

[1] National Report Series Bulletin (Aug. 2014). Juveniles in Residential Placement, 2011. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Mapping Upward Technical Assistance Institute

Mapping Upward Logo with an arrow made of dots

The Mapping Upward project, a national activity led by OCTAE’s Division of Academic and Technical Education, selected four sector-focused networks representing twelve colleges to receive technical assistance to support the embedding of stackable, industry-recognized credentials within technical associate degree programs. The four college networks selected to participate in the project include:

  • Bakersfield College, Shasta College, and Reedley College (California, Horticulture focus)
  • Forsyth Technical Community College, Catawba Valley Community College, Isothermal Community College, and Piedmont Community College (North Carolina, Advanced Manufacturing focus)
  • Luzerne County Community College, Lehigh Carbon Community College, and Northampton Community College (Pennsylvania, Advanced Manufacturing focus)
  • Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Mitchell Community College (North Carolina, Advanced Manufacturing focus)

Thirty-one individuals representing the college teams participated in the Mapping Upward Technical Assistance Institute, July 21-22 at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha/Racine, Wisconsin. The teams were immersed in sessions with content experts on topics ranging from employer engagement strategies and program design to credit issues and work-based learning experiences. Teams also met in small groups to work on action plans that will be the focus of their technical assistance activities for the next year. College teams will tackle institutional issues as well as collaborate with their in-state partners on the broader goals of their network. All twelve colleges are engaged in an online community of practice for resource sharing and exchange of promising practices. Each network is receiving dedicated technical assistance from a coach as well as support from subject matter experts on targeted topics.

For more information on the project, please visit the Mapping Upward: Stackable Credentials that Lead to Careers page on PCRN or email Erin Berg, erin.berg@ed.gov.

Supporting Student Success: Discussions about Adult Education and Developmental Education Reform in Community Colleges

Earning a postsecondary degree or credential has become a prerequisite for the growing jobs of the new economy.  President Obama has challenged every American to commit to at least one year of higher education or postsecondary training to better prepare themselves for the challenges they will face in the ever-evolving workforce.  OCTAE is committed to supporting community college students and, in turn, strengthening the coordination and alignment between adult education and developmental education programs at community college campuses to better prepare students for the 21st century job market.  The Supporting Student Success: Adult Education and Remedial Education Reform in Community Colleges initiative is a technical assistance activity, funded by OCTAE to support the President and the Department’s goals.

As part of Supporting Student Success, OCTAE, through the support of the Manhattan Strategy Group is hosting three Community of Practice (CoP) discussions this fall.  The CoPs will be hosted on the LINCS online platform.  To comment in the discussions, free membership to LINCS is required, but no membership is necessary to read the discussion. Make sure you are subscribed to Postsecondary Completion LINCS Community of Practice group for more information. Learn more about LINCS here. We highly encourage you to join the CoPs by signing up prior to the start of the discussion.

Get involved! The CoP discussion of best practices listed below will be led by current practitioners of adult education and developmental education programming.

  • Building Bridges Between Adult Basic Education and Developmental Education: October 17-21, 2016
    • This discussion is designed to present strategies and models for collaboration and communication between Adult Basic Education (ABE) and Developmental Education (Dev Ed) programs based on work being done at Amarillo (TX) College and Gateway (CT) Community College.
  • Intensive Skill and College Readiness Programs at Community Colleges: November 7-11, 2016
    • This discussion will lead with the presentation of two programs, St. Louis (MO) Community College’s Academic Academy and Gateway Community College’s Academic Bootcamp. They will provide information about their opportunities surrounding skill development, college and work readiness competency development, and career guidance.
  • Re-Visioning Student Instruction and Support: December 1-8, 2016
    • This discussion is designed to present national programming which incorporates intensive support services. Individuals from St. Louis Community College and Amarillo College will begin by sharing some of their practices which include, but is not limited to: face-to-face advising, online media instruction, and community based supports integrated into training.Erin Berg

Guest blogger: Erin Berg, OCTAE Community College Program Specialist

The Promise of – and Need for – Pay for Success

New funding announcement released: Providing High-Quality Career and Technical Education Programs for Underserved, High-Need Youth Through a Pay for Success Model

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education allocates roughly $1.8 billion in funding to States and outlying areas for strategic investments in career, technical and adult education at local education agencies, community colleges, correctional institutions, libraries, housing authorities, and community-based, faith-based and other non-profit organizations. Together, States and outlying areas match federal adult education resources with State and local investments totaling between $1 and $1.5 billion annually. And, the State match for career and technical education is $116 million per year with additional State and local resources estimated to be eight to ten times the federal investment.

We have made significant improvements in the collection of performance data related to these investments over the last decade, but unfortunately we have limited evidence-based feedback at the national level on these investments. Given statutory performance accountability requirements, we have aggregate data from States and outlying areas on the number of people who participated in career, technical and adult education and their overall outcomes during a given reporting period. However, there are some significant limitations to these data that lead us to a troubling spot: we too often just don’t know if participation in our programs brought about positive outcomes. Furthermore, we don’t know what would have happened to these participants had they not participated. 

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Summer: A Great Time to Talk about College

As we approach the end of summer, it is important to reflect on ways that we can all support students and families preparing to attend college next year. For the first time this fall, students are able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) beginning on October 1st. This earlier date allows students to explore further financial aid options before most college’s deadlines. As a result, students will have more college options than in the past.

On average there are 482 high school students for every college counselor, each looking for their own set of advice in regards to the college application process. In addition to those students who have overworked counselors there are many youth and adults who are deciding to return to school and who lack access to free college counseling. For these reasons, in September 2015, the U.S. Department of Education redesigned the College Scorecard to provide the clearest, most accessible, and most reliable national data on college cost, graduation, debt, and post-college earnings. This tool was improved with feedback from students, families, and counselors to help ensure that families and future postsecondary students make the most informed decisions when choosing a college.

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Minority-Serving Community Colleges Virtual Convening

Increasing cooperation among community colleges that serve a large minority population or populations is widely viewed among community college faculty and leaders and policymakers as an integral element in ensuring that these institutions improve their capacities to serve their varied student populations.  In furtherance of this collaborative effort, OCTAE, on Thursday, May 19, hosted an all-day virtual event to build upon the efforts begun during its Minority-Serving Community College convening at the Department of Education last fall. Approximately 70 individuals or groups joined to hear updates on a variety of topics and concerns for minority-serving community colleges.  Future content and events will be announced through the OCTAE newsletter, OCTAE Connection, the OCTAE Community Colleges website, as well as the Minority-Serving Community Colleges and Affiliates LINCS group, which can be joined here.

The first topical session was hosted by Amy Firestone of the U.S. Department of Labor on the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium.  Registered Apprenticeships and the College Consortium will be considered in more detail in a future issue of OCTAE Connection. The second presentation focused on White House initiatives that support each of the designated categories of minority-serving institutions.  Each of these initiatives undertakes activities designed to support their particular constituencies.  The third presentation by OCTAE Policy Analyst Kiawanta Hunter-Keiser focused on the Department’s initiatives to support equity in career and technical education, both internally and externally. The fourth session, hosted by Luke Wood and Marissa Vasquez Urias of San Diego State University, discussed the role of faculty in supporting men of color at community colleges with a special emphasis on the need for research, training, and assessment. Drs. Wood and Vasquez Urias invited convening attendees to join the National Consortium on College Men of Color and attend the June 9-10, 2016 working group meeting in San Diego, CA.  The topic of the final session was a presentation by some of the lead institutions for the Minority-Serving Community Colleges Communities of Practice initiative regarding a research conference for minority-serving institutions, an Asian American and Pacific Islander initiative, and on middle-college pathways.

Guest blogger: Erin Berg, OCTAE Community College Program SpecialistErin Berg

5 Million Reasons to Care About Youth Not in Education or Jobs

OCTAE has been shining a spotlight on the challenges faced by disconnected youth and the programming models focused on their challenges for the past several years. These are youth roughly 16 to 24 years of age, who are not engaged in education and not employed. They may be living at home or be homeless. They may be in or may have emancipated from the foster care system. They may be high school non-completers or those who have completed some college courses or received credentials. They may live in urban, rural or suburban communities. They may be in or released from justice-involved facilities. They may be single, married, and/or parents.

With this post, OCTAE kicks off a blog series examining what we know about disconnected youth, promising programming models, and the data used to track progress in reconnecting youth with education, training, employment, community, and their families.

We use the term “disconnected” youth, as this is the term used in the statutes and authorities that allow OCTAE to support disconnected youth. These “disconnected” youth have also been called “opportunity” youth.

Youth Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)

If you are like me, you like good news more than bad news. That is why many of us in the youth development and education fields were ecstatic to learn that there are almost 300,000 fewer youth who are disconnected than there were in 2010. That is great news.

Not such great news is that these gains vary a lot – and we would argue, too much – depending on where youth live and their race, gender, ethnicity, and home language. Of equal concern is that there are still more than 5 million disconnected youth in our country.

The new data from the Survey of Adult Skills can inform us about youth in the United States who are Not in Employment, Education, or Training, or NEET youth, as the OECD calls these youth.[1]

The U.S. National Supplement of the Survey of Adult Skills, released on March 10, 2016, reported on an enhanced sample in the U.S. that oversampled the unemployed, young adults (ages 16-34), and older adults (ages 66-74).[2] These data allow us to examine the education and work status of youth, their educational and family backgrounds, skill use at work and in everyday life, and proficiency of directly-assessed foundation skills (literacy, numeracy, and digital problem solving).

As the Survey of Adult Skills data have shown, in the U.S. economy, skills matter – almost as much as a credential. The question then becomes: what skills do NEET youth possess? Do they have the foundation skills they need to re-connect and get ahead?

The U.S. National Supplement found that nearly 5% of 16-24 year olds were in NEET status, that is, not engaged in employment, education or training in the 12 months before responding to the Survey. Many of these NEET youth have very low skills. A quarter of NEET youth perform below Level 2 in literacy, and 45% perform as low in numeracy.

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Strengthening the Link Between Upskill America and WIOA

Last month, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of Upskill America. There was a lot to celebrate. The employers who made commitments last year at the Upskill America Summit created training for approximately 200,000 frontline workers that could lead to higher-skill jobs. Over 10,000 workers have earned degrees and credentials, and nearly 5,000 workers have already been promoted into higher-paying positions. Over the same period, 532,150 frontline workers participated in adult education programs funded by Title II of WIOA to strengthen their math, reading, writing, or English skills.

This is great progress. An analysis of recent data on frontline workers, however, shows we must do more. See a fact sheet created by OCTAE for the 2016 Upskill celebration, based on the updated Survey of Adult Skills data. The good news is that WIOA creates opportunities to further extend upskilling efforts for the benefit of America’s workforce.

Let’s look at the data first. There are between 20 and 24 million workers who lack foundation skills for getting ahead, with literacy proficiency below Level 2 on the Survey of Adult Skills. Who are they and where do they work?

  • 60% hold one or more jobs in the following industries: retail, health, hospitality/food, manufacturing, and construction

    A circle graph depicts the race and ethinicity of low-skilled frontline workers as listed in the text; a bar chart shows the first language of frontline workers is English (58.2%), Spanish (33.6%) and Other (8.2).

    Low-skilled frontline workers have different backgrounds and have different language proficiencies and needs.

  • 57% are men
  • 50% are younger than age 45
  • Nearly 80% are parents
  • 20% are Black
  • Nearly 40% are Hispanic
  • Nearly 70% have at least a high school diploma
  • 60% make less than $20,000 a year, which is much less than the median earnings for all workers with a high school diploma, not just lower-skilled workers.[1]

These workers have different backgrounds and bring diverse views to their work and workplaces, and a significant number of frontline workers are bilingual or multi-lingual.

It is very encouraging that many frontline workers have taken steps to improve their skills.  Fifty percent participated in formal or non-formal education in the year leading up to the Survey and 10 percent participated in distance education. Employers were more likely to have paid for non-formal education and training, in 40 percent of the cases, than formal education, in only 10 percent.

If half of these frontline workers do participate in education and training, then half – or roughly between 10 and 12 million workers – do not. So how do we change that? And specifically, what can the public and private sectors do together to give more frontline workers access to education and training opportunities that will allow them to move up?

WIOA offers specific opportunities to expand access. As States are preparing to compete their WIOA Title II funding, for instance, partnerships between employers and eligible providers can apply for funding to support learning opportunities for frontline workers. Here you can find an example of how Alexandria City Public Schools are working with Dominion Services–Virginia Power to create a powerful upskilling program for work in the electrical and utility industry. But, WIOA can do much more for employers and their employees.  See a guide compiled by the Department of Labor on how businesses can engage in the workforce development system.

Employers, WIOA service providers, and partners can collaborate to create that first job opportunity for many of our vulnerable subpopulations, particularly those individuals with significant barriers to employment including job seekers with disabilities, foster youth, returning citizens, and others. This type of upskill-backfill partnership creates a pipeline for firms and pathways for workers. There are no losers in this. Only winners.

 

[1]Median annual earnings for all workers with a high school diploma for all skill levels are approximately $30,000 based on 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies data.