Job Corps: A Training Program Pipeline to the Corrections Profession

Article excerpt

With the nation's correctional agencies struggling to find and retain correctional officers, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is trying an innovative approach. TDCJ has partnered with the Gary Job Corps Community in San Marcos, Texas, to create a program that is the first of its kind in the United States and represents an important work force development pipeline for students wishing to enter the corrections profession.

The Gary Job Corps Center is considered a college program, similar to any other college program within Texas offering TDCJ curriculum. Additionally, the Gary Job Corps Center is investigating dual-credit opportunities with local colleges because students currently do not receive college credits for program completion. Job Corps is an important program within the U.S. Department of Labor to help young people overcome barriers to employment.

In March 2001, Management & Training Corp. (MTC) officials representing corrections and Job Corps met with TDCJ officials to discuss a correctional officer training program at the Gary Job Corps Center. MTC proposed expanding its security officer training at the center to include correctional officer training that would meet TDCJ standards. The contract that grew out of that initial meeting between the department and Gary Job Corps is renewable annually. Job Corps instructors receive specialized training at TDCJ academies and attend an annual TDCJ in-service training session.

What Is Job Corps?

Each year, Job Corps helps thousands of young people begin satisfying careers. Job Corps is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week residential program. The U.S. Department of Labor administers the program to meet the education and training needs of economically disadvantaged youths throughout the country.

Established in 1964, Job Corps has trained and educated more than 2 million young people and currently serves nearly 70,000 students each year. Job Corps has 122 centers located in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Many of these now have security training programs that could be adapted to meet standards and training requirements of state correctional agencies across the country.

To enroll in the program, a student must be:

* Between the ages of 16 and 24;

* A U.S. citizen or legal resident;

* Free of probation or parole;

* Free of serious medical or behavioral problems; and

* Willing to work and learn in a drug-free and violence-free environment.

All prospective Job Corps students undergo a thorough background check and sign an agreement pledging to comply with Job Corps' zero-tolerance policy for drugs and violence.

Job Corps offers an individualized program designed to provide students with a high school diploma or GED and a certificate in an industry-recognized trade. Applicants are generally assigned to a center near their home and the average length of stay is about eight months.

According to the National Job Corps Association, Job Corps' benefits exceed costs by a ratio of more than 2-to-1, returning $2.02 for every $1 spent on the program. Job Corps also has one of the highest placement rates among the nation's job-training programs. Nearly nine in 10 (86 percent) students who train at a Job Corps center for two months or more obtain jobs, enter the military or enroll in higher education, the National Job Corps Center reports. With the high demand for correctional officers, Gary Job Corps Center officials expect strong graduate placement success.

Significance of TDCJ's Partnership

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an annual average demand of 19,200 correctional officers through the year 2012. However, this figure may be low, since more than 34,000 correctional officers were hired across the country in 2001, according to the 2003 Corrections Yearbook.

The American Correctional Association's 2005 Directory, Adult and Juvenile Correctional Departments, Institutions, Agencies, and Probation and Parole Authorities indicates that the adult correctional security staff turnover rate for the United States, with three not reporting, was 15. …