CTE Changing Lives Blog

On July 12, 2017, CNA Education co-sponsored a U.S. Senate CTE Caucus briefing on supporting successful reentry through Career and Technical Education (CTE). The purpose was to better understand emerging evidence on the effectiveness of correctional CTE and promising approaches to reentry education. Below is CNA Educations’ CTE Changing Lives Blog summarizing the event:

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at least 95 percent of all incarcerated adults in state prisons will return to society.[i] In an effort to reduce recidivism and support the employment and economic mobility of justice-involved individuals, the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, in collaboration with CNA, held a briefing on July 12, 2017 titled, Supporting Successful Reentry through CTE.

The purpose of this briefing was to explore the significance of correctional CTE on promoting positive academic, labor market and reentry outcomes. Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D –WI), and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined the conversation and shared how correctional CTE was making a difference in their respective states. "Wisconsin has made progress, but still more than 30 percent of ex-offenders recidivate … Career and Technical Education helps us address critical challenges such as recidivism—an issue that harms our community and safety," said Senator Baldwin.

The briefing also featured a panel discussion with a formerly incarcerated individual, an employer and expert practitioners. Thomas Lane Jr., who was once incarcerated but now works as a graphic designer for Maryland Correctional Enterprises, shared that his "potential to grow has been greatly impacted by correctional education." Thomas currently serves on the Board of the Correctional Education Council. The Council provides recommendations to the Division of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) Correctional Education and Occupational Skills Training Programs in regards to workforce development and reentry planning. Thomas also highlighted that "education is not just teaching, it’s also counseling, mentoring – especially as many students suffer from mental health issues." Jack Weber, CEO of Uptown Press, a Baltimore-based company that has employed and trained over 100 men and women on work release programs, echoed this sentiment by sharing that "success in reducing recidivism lies in developing three connections: a family connection, a housing connection, and a one-on-one connection with a mentor." Kathie Harris, an alternative workforce specialist at the Kansas Department of Commerce, added that "stackable credentials are important, as they can lead to national certificates which can be used anywhere."

Lul Tesfai, CNA Education senior policy director and the moderator for this Senate CTE Caucus briefing, highlighted emerging evidence on the effectiveness of correctional CTE. A 2013 RAND meta-analysis for example, found that participation in correctional education, including CTE, is associated with a 43 percent reduction in recidivism, and a 13 percent increase in employment.[ii] Lul also shared findings from CNA’s original analysis of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) nationally representative survey of the literacy and numeracy skills of incarcerated adults that was administered in 2014. According to the analysis, about 31 percent of incarcerated adults with one or more dependent children under the age 18 have low literacy skills, compared with 20 percent of the total population with dependent children. Almost 51 percent of incarcerated adults with dependent children have low numeracy skills, compared with 32 percent of the total population with dependent children. These findings are critically important and hint at the intergenerational impact that investments in correctional CTE might have.

The value of correctional CTE is a timely topic as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) is due for reauthorization. Perkins allows eligible recipients to allocate up to one percent of funding for state leadership activities for CTE in correctional settings.[iii] Additionally, the Second Chance Act, co-authored by Senator Portman and first passed in April 2008, aims to improve outcomes for justice-involved individuals, is also due for reauthorization. As Stefan LoBuglio, director of Corrections & Reentry at the Council of State Government’s Justice Center, pointed out, "the game changer is this: we have businesses, institutes of higher learning, and correctional institutions all coming together to the table and realizing we have an enormous talent pool we can tap into and this wasn’t the case 20 years ago."


[i] https://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/reentry.cfm.

[ii] Davis, L.M., Bozick, R., Steele, J.L., Sauders, J.,Miles, J.N.V. (2013). Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html.

[iii] Sec. 112(a)(2)(A) of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.