Second Chance Grant Opens New Doors for Future Workforce

September 14, 2015

Topeka -  Fall seven times, stand up eight. -- Japanese proverb

Standing strong may not be as easy as the previous time, especially if you are a person attempting to return to the community after incarceration. One hundred twenty-nine women, however, now have new opportunity to succeed, having completed the Second Chance program offered by Washburn Tech at the Topeka Correctional Facility.

As participants in the nine-week program, students receive instruction in processing production and maintenance to become certified production technicians (CPT). Students completing the 14-credit-hour program earn forklift certification and OSHA 10 credentials which indicate they are educated in the recognition, avoidance, abatement and prevention of safety and health hazards in the workplace.

In addition to a technical certificate from Washburn Tech, they also receive Manufacturing Skill Standards Council certification in safety, quality, maintenance awareness and process and production.
Students selected for the program are typically six to 18 months from being released, range in age from early 20 to mid-50 and are considered to be high to medium risk for recidivism. Statistics indicate the inability to find a job and become self-supporting is a contributing factor in the return to incarceration.
While the recidivism of Kansas prison inmates declined from about 58 percent to 33 percent between 2000 and 2009, information from the Kansas Department of Corrections indicates the state's inmate population could reach 9,600 by 2022, an increase of 1,200 in less than a decade.

Improving outcomes for people returning to communities after incarceration is the foundation of the Second Chance Act signed into law in 2008. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the Kansas Department of Commerce a $639,684 Second Chance Act grant to fund courses to be offered at Washburn Tech. The commerce department administers the grant in partnership with the Kansas Department of Corrections and Washburn University.

In 10 months, 104 participants in the Washburn Tech program have earned 1,290 hours of college credit and 502 industry-recognized credentials. Twenty-five are currently enrolled.

To date, 33 graduates of the program have been released from the facility, with 20 maintaining employment, which meets the 45 percent target for employment, said Gillian Gablemann, associate dean for technical education, who noted that one graduate of the program is now attending college as a freshman.

Gabelmann is very pleased the grant has been extended for another six to eight months. “Considering there are 817 women at the correctional facility, it’s possible to have at least 200 complete the program,” she said.