Hudson County Director Tom DeGise and members of the Council of Commissioners joined Hudson County Community College President Chris Reber on a visit with incarcerated students who are now preparing for their community college degrees within the walls of the Hudson County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center on Tuesday, December 14.
The visit highlighted the novelty, Academic workforce development program, launched in September, which offers community college classes to as many as 55 currently serving sentences at the Correctional and Rehabilitation Center during the 2021-2022 school year.
The program enables qualified inmates to earn their associate’s degree or certification in a wide range of employment-oriented study concentrations. This makes the Correctional and Rehabilitation Center the first jail in New Jersey County (and possibly the country) to offer degree programs to inmates. About half of those registered with University workforce development program participate in this degree course.
the University workforce development program Also offers a workforce skills development training track that will offer community college courses in areas such as basic computer skills, essential business software, supply chain management and l English as a second language (ESL).
All students in the program, graduate and non-graduate, will benefit from a life skills training program that Hudson County Community College offers in partnership with Jersey City’s respected nonprofit, Women Rising.
The total cost for the first-year, two-semester program is $ 150,000, with funding provided by the Hudson County Reintegration Grant.
The rationale for this innovative college-county partnership is simple: Access to post-secondary education focused on usable skills dramatically reduces barriers for former incarcerates trying to re-integrate into the community and support themselves and their lives. those of their families.
In a fact sheet presented by the Vera Institute of Justice in January 2019, titled âInvesting in the Economic Future: Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Post-secondary Education in Prison, Expanding Access to Post-secondary Education in Prison secondary in prison â, research has shown that post-secondary education focused on employable skills can help incarcerated people successfully reintegrate into the community.
The courses and degree programs offered by the University workforce development program reflect local job market trends carefully researched by Hudson County Community College and County Workforce Development professionals who seek placement opportunities for their students and clients in Hudson County every day .
The partnership also aligns with HCCC’s mission to serve its diverse communities with inclusive educational programs and services that promote student success, upward social and economic mobility, and resources for growth, and broadens the approach. progressive incarceration employed by the Hudson County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The Correctional and Rehabilitation Center already offers the only certified inpatient drug addiction treatment available to inmates in New Jersey County jails, as well as a substantial community reintegration program that includes post-incarceration housing assistance, residential care. health (Medicaid registration) and job placement services. for those in his care.
The partnership also reflects the DeGise administration’s focus on providing a network of support services to help those most in need get the tools they need to stabilize their lives and support themselves and their families. family. This is reflected in the administration’s recent creation of a single âHousing and Community Reintegration Departmentâ focused on building links with treatment, job skills, housing and employment support. that help more people stay off welfare and out of jail, saving more time on taxpayer dollars by reducing dependency on the system and reducing recidivism.
The Reintegration Division of the Department oversees the Academic workforce development program.
“We’ve long heard that it costs as much to put a person in jail as it does to send them to college,” County Director DeGise said. âIt seems a lot smarter to give people who want to change their lives the post-secondary education they need to do it in prison. I am grateful for President Reber’s vision and commitment and for the remarkable efforts of his faculty and staff to make this program possible. And I want to thank all the leaders and staff of the agencies working with the College, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the Department of Housing and Community Reintegration for truly making this a “path” to employment for them. registered incarcerated persons.
âProviding programs that promote upward social and economic mobility is at the very heart of the mission of Hudson County Community College,â said President Reber. âObtaining a degree or certificate – and the employment opportunities it offers – is deeply stimulating for students and their families. The transformative power of programs like this is best achieved through partnerships, and we are proud to partner with the DeGise County Executive, County Commissioners, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Department housing and community reintegration and Women Rising to make this essential and innovative. program a reality.
âThe scourge of mass incarceration needs to be tackled in different ways and it is definitely the one we need to pursue,â said County Commissioner Jerry Walker, who sponsored the resolution that formally created and approved funding for. the University workforce development program. âWhen you give a person skills, you give them a chance to start a new life. I believe we are doing it here.
“The tragedy is that so many people who find themselves caught in the criminal justice system are trapped in a cycle they cannot break caused by poverty due to a lack of education,” said Commissioner Anthony L. Romano, a former police captain who detached the resolution creating the program. âI have witnessed this frustrating reality in service for many years. I am happy now to support a program that can really help people stay out of prison and build a real future for themselves.
âWe have the resources to change lives, strengthen our community, and in so doing, save taxpayer dollars over time,â said Freeholder Bill O’Dea, who has long championed this type of partnership. âWe just needed the leadership and cooperation to harness those resources. I thank the County Executive and President Reber, my fellow Board Members and our dedicated County staff for providing both. Lives will change as a result of this approach and we will all be better off in Hudson County. “
Entities involved in the Academic Workforce Pathway program interagency partnership include: Hudson County Community College, Hudson County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Hudson County Department of Housing and Community Reintegration, Hudson County / Jersey City Workforce Development Board, Hudson County Economic SociÃ©tÃ© de development and Women Rising.
Tuesday’s visit came at the end of two courses given at the HCC & RC Law Library. Elected leaders briefly addressed and then interacted with students of the degree programs (Intro to Computer Science, English / Speech) taught during this period and their faculty.