As part of President Obama’s speech to the NAACP Conference in Philadelphia in mid-July that focused the ills of the country’s criminal justice system, he cited the Montgomery County Correctional Facility’s (MCCF) American Job Center, one of a network of such centers across the U.S., formerly called One-Stop Career Centers.
The centers offer an array of services including job search assistance, training opportunities and classes related to seeking employment. Eligible populations include veterans, youth, dislocated workers and ex-offenders. MCCF was one of the first centers in the country to operate within a maximum security correctional facility.
A driving principle of the MCCF 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 are all key factors that contribute to the effectiveness of the center.
The President said, “Our prisons should be a place where we can train people for skills that can help them find a job, not train them to become more hardened criminals.
“Look, I don’t want to pretend like this is all easy. But some places are doing better than others. Montgomery County, Maryland put a job training center inside the prison walls -- (applause) -- to give folks a head start in thinking about what might you do otherwise than committing crime. That’s a good idea.”
Participants in the MCCF program are called “customers.” This language signifies a shift in thought from traditional service delivery. Customers are equal partners in the process; not recipients of services due to personal deficits. Staff members are referred to as “coaches.” The coaches provide training, guidance, and drill exercises while the customer is responsible for putting in the effort needed toward measurable success. This approach encourages independence and personal empowerment versus dependence on staff members.
See the MCCF website for more information about the MCCF American Job Center.