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Maryland Correctional Enterprises Graduates 12 Inmates From CARES Re-Entry Program

June 29, 2011 - Among all of America’s prison industry groups, Maryland Correctional Enterprises (MCE) is regarded as one of the very best: it’s in the top eight in both number of inmates employed and total sales. But there’s more to correctional industries than producing quality products and teaching inmates a strong work ethic. Giving inmates every possible opportunity to succeed once they’re out sometimes takes truly innovative effort.

That innovation is evidenced in a unique and intensive re-entry effort known as CARES, which stands for Continuing Allocation of Re-entry Services. The program allows inmates to work during the day at MCE’s main laundry plant inside Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville, and then take classes designed to get them ready for life on the outside: Thinking For a Change behavioral modification, job readiness, and resume-building among others.

Since its inception three years ago, CARES has graduated more than 100 inmates, the most recent dozen on June 29. That last group heard encouraging words from none other than the Commissioner of Correction himself. Division of Correction Commissioner J. Michael Stouffer followed a number of equally inspirational speakers, including Dr. Harold “Dave” Jenkins, a Ph.D. whose life at MCE has been devoted to preparing men and women for life beyond bars.

The keynote speaker was Tim Blair, a current MCE employee and former DOC inmate, who reminded the men that it’s up to them to seek out any opportunity on the outside, even if that “opportunity” doesn’t seem like a great first step. Mr. Blair was so highly regarded during his pre-release employment at MCE, that the prison industry hired him fulltime when he got out.

Studies have shown that offenders with at least one year of MCE employment are less than half as likely to recidivate as general population inmates. CARES extends the employability of these offenders through their final years in the correctional system, resulting in a smoother transition into the workforce upon release, hopefully even further reducing the recidivism rate.