Monday, April 2, 2012

Making Strides Toward Offender Employment

The Utah Department of Corrections was recently in the news as part of a broad, coordinated effort with several public, private, and non-profit agencies participating to help even the playing field when it comes to employment.

Offenders often have a difficult time overcoming their criminal histories and finding work, even after they have served their time. This complicates their chances for success when they are on paper (probation or parole), since obtaining and maintaining employment is a major part of their required conditions. Likewise, employment is a precursor to other, broader successes. Offenders who have a difficult time paying rent or mortgages, supporting their families, paying restitution to victims, or even affording the necessities of everyday life generally are more likely to revert to former lifestyles or give up and find themselves back in prison. This has negative impacts on the individual, their families and loved ones, and society as a whole.

Utah Corrections works with other state, federal, and local governmental agencies as well as the previously mentioned private and non-profit sector groups, to help offenders gain the tools and interviewing skills they need to stand on their own, possessing the confidence to compete in the job market.

KSL News and The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran stories about two offenders who have turned their lives around and landed careers after serving time. Also below is a link to a page on the Corrections website about UDOWD, which contains a news release.

News Stories:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lt. Governor Highlights Corrections

Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell recently posted an entry on his blog highlighting the hard work of Utah Department of Corrections' staff. Link directly by clicking here, or read below.

Of all the functions of government, the corrections system is one of the least visible to the average citizen. The Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC) has a daunting task, and little margin for error. With limited staff and resources, UDOC manages 6,900 inmates. Last year they processed 3,300 intakes and 3,100 releases.

One of their most important assignments is to prepare offenders to return to civilian life—without their criminal behavior. A large majority of inmates have some kind of learning disability and low levels of educational attainment and many deal with serious addictions. UDOC provides therapy to prisoners to address addictions, mental illness, and irrational thinking and behavior. They also help prisoners obtain their high school diploma and especially endeavor to teach new workforce skills so they can support themselves. Recidivism—repeat criminal behavior—is greatly reduced by therapy, education and job training. These programs are expensive and in high demand, but they provide a high return to the taxpayers by sparing the community from additional crimes and repeated incarcerations and by turning many felons into productive taxpayers. In fact, according to a recent PEW study, Utah’s corrections system experienced the second-most-dramatic drop in recidivism rates in the US, a reduction of 18.4 percent.

UDOC has seen excellent results from its Sex Offender Treatment Program, which addresses criminal sexual deviance. A staggering 30 percent of the prison population is serving time for sex-related offenses. Most will eventually serve out their time and be released. Therefore, we must be assured that these offenders are not likely to repeat their crimes. This treatment program is crucial, both to prepare inmates for civilian life and to prevent future victimization. Unfortunately the demand far exceeds the available slots.

UDOC also operates three therapeutic communities which immerse inmates in an intensive addiction treatment program. In light of the huge number of our inmates who struggle with substance abuse habits, addiction recovery is key to preventing future crimes.

UDOC has formed a task force of corrections officers and specialists to connect released offenders with jobs. Employment is often the greatest hurdle an offender will face upon release from prison, and is essential in preventing recidivism. To prepare inmates for future employment, UDOC helps them complete their GED and obtain certification in technical job skills.

When an offender is released from custody, UDOC doesn’t just forget about them. Through the Adult Probation and Parole program, UDOC attempts to identify warning signs that an offender might be regressing and more likely to commit a new offense. When warning signs appear, probation and parole agents proactively return offenders to prison or a violator centers before another crime is committed.

While UDOC operates these programs to help offenders succeed after release, the overriding purpose is to safeguard our communities. Notwithstanding large budget cuts, UDOC has made great strides in safely housing prisoners and in preparing inmates to return to society as productive citizens. Governor Herbert and I applaud the excellent staff at the Utah Department of Corrections for their success in working with offenders, reducing recidivism, and keeping Utah a safe place to live.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Inmate-grown pumpkins

DRAPER, Utah — As part of an ongoing annual tradition, officers from the Utah State Prison delivered thousands of inmate-grown pumpkins to benefit Salt Lake Valley children.

Officers made their final stops Oct. 24, at Jordan School District’s Kauri Sue Hamilton School for children with multiple disabilities, and Oct. 26, at a school for children with special needs at Canyons School District.

A group of 28 inmates in the prison’s greenhouse program traditionally grow about 3,000 pumpkins between June and October. They pick the pumpkins one-by-one from the patch and bleach them to protect some of the children who are more susceptible to germs. They rinse and dry each pumpkin before hoarding the gourds into a trailer so officers can deliver them to various locations including a Boys & Girls Club, Camp Kostopulos, Shriner’s Hospital and Primary Children’s Medical Center.

The inmates dedicate two-thirds of their garden space to grow pumpkins for the children. One

offender noted that his fellow inmates take pride in the project, and he added that it notably brings together a group of individuals who are serving time for crimes against society and allows them to give back by doing something for the betterment of the community. The offenders are confined to the prison facilities and do not travel to the schools for the donations. Instead, they see the gratitude returned via a string of thank you cards. Several notes from last year’s donations currently adorn the greenhouse program offices. Offenders wished to thank news outlets for covering the event in years’ past, as it allows them to see the kids’ joy.

Prison inmates have also begun growing poinsettias in the greenhouse program, which will decorate various State offices during the upcoming holiday season.

Links to news media coverage:,0,3627340.story

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Prison Physical Therapy

The Salt Lake Tribune recently published a story discussing physical therapy and how those visits are conducted in prison with security being a paramount concern. The story also touches on the fact that physical therapy in lieu of or on the heels of surgeries end up saving taxpayers and help make Utah one of the smallest spenders on inmate health care while still providing quality service.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ConQuest Graduation 2011

DRAPER, Utah — Not long ago, Nate Workman was living a young man’s dream. He was a local quarterback just entering the college scene and eager to make his mark. But his world quickly fell apart when he began using burglaries and thefts as a means to fuel his meth abuse. During the past decade he’s been in and out of federal penitentiaries and hasn’t spent much more than a year out of prison at any given time.

After nearly 15 years of struggling with a negative lifestyle, Workman graduated the Utah State Prison’s Con-Quest substance-abuse treatment program on Thursday, June 30, capping a long effort to start a new life dedicated to his family and two children. He was accompanied by 30 peers, who likewise completed the program. A total of 73 residents graduated, but many had paroled from prison or moved out of the Con-Quest program ahead of graduation time. Some of the graduates will join the Con-Quest team as peer leaders and mentors to help fellow incoming offenders as they strive to follow the same productive path.

Through Con-Quest and similar dormitory-setting programs, the Utah Department of Corrections provides offenders an intensely structured environment where they develop pro-social skills and learn from one another in a monitored group setting. In addition to overcoming substance-abuse issues, the offenders participate in a “relay system,” where they call each other out for negative behavior as simple as failing to wipe down a sink.

Like other therapeutic communities in the prison system, Con-Quest selects offenders based on their need for substance-abuse treatment. Offenders are “mapped” for certain treatment programs when they enter prison, and those most in need of substance-abuse treatment prior to their release are prioritized.

When he came to Utah’s prison system in 2010, Workman actually wrote a letter to Con-Quest personnel, eagerly requesting that he be allowed in to the high-demand therapeutic community. He called it “a breath of fresh air” that could provide him with the resources he needed to overcome the root causes of his long struggles.

“I looked at myself, and I was just disgusted,” Workman said, adding that he finally recognized he was hurting the ones he loved the most. “I knew right then I could either just become crap, or I could change.”

“You have this heightened awareness of the small things – you’re accountable for all you do,” Workman said, adding that the 24/7 scrutiny and community life in Con-Quest varied drastically from life in the federal prison system. “I looked at [Con-Quest] an opportunity to grow. In a dormitory setting, you can’t just sit there and ‘do your own time.’ I finally had to dig down deep and deal with my issues. It’s unique. It’s about bettering you.”

As is the case with Workman, drug dependencies are often the catalyst behind various crimes that land offenders in prison – such as burglaries, thefts and forgeries. Among the nearly 7,000 inmates in Utah’s prison system, the vast majority – as much as 80 percent of the population – have struggled with some significant substance-abuse trial. Only about 4 percent are imprisoned due to drug possession crimes.

The Con-Quest program began as a therapeutic community for males housed at the prison’s Draper site in 2000 and originally housed 144 residents. In March 2005, the program moved to the Promontory facility and expanded to 400 residents. The Department of Corrections also runs two other therapeutic communities targeting substance abuse issues – HOPE for male inmates at Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, and Ex-Cell for female inmates in Draper. Ex-Cell graduated 22 women on June 29, and a not-yet-determined number of men will complete HOPE on July 21. Each program takes an offender an average of 18 months of focused effort to complete.

As for Workman – he finished in just over a year. With one year left before he paroles from prison, Workman said he has more confidence. He likes himself better. He has more fun. And he’s anxious to show his mother and grandmother by his actions that he stands for something positive.

Asked if he had a message for others struggling with substance abuse and self-confidence, Workman said: “Everybody has stuff. It’s what you make of it that counts. But you can do it. Change is possible.”

First: Con-Quest residents stand and recite their core beliefs in unison at the outset of the graduation ceremony.

Second: The Con-Quest band performs the first of two songs during the ceremony. It was an original piece written about calling home from prison.

Third: Nate Workman receives his Con-Quest completion diploma from former graduates who have since become mentors in the program.

Above: Con-Quest Program Director Dona Kendall addresses the graduates, stressing the importance of sticking to what they learned in the substance-abuse treatment program and noting that she "never wants to see them again."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Graduation 2011

DRAPER, Utah — Donning traditional caps and gowns, a record-breaking 378 male and female inmates were recently awarded their diplomas from Canyons School District’s South Park Academy at the Utah State Prison’s Draper site.

Keynote speaker Frank Layden - a former Utah Jazz coach, general manager and team president as well as former schoolteacher - encouraged the graduates to continue their hard work.

"Graduation - that means it's complete. It's over. It's done, right? No, it's quite the opposite. Graduation is like the starter's gun firing to start a race. You are in the first day of the rest of your lives," Layden said. "You have now elevated yourselves above many other people with more opportunities than you've been given. You've moved up the pyramid...How smart you are will depend on what you do now after receiving that diploma. That you are going to elevate yourself, that you will not stop there, that you are going to take off in the race and make yourself even better. You are going to reach out to the stars."

Layden compared the graduates' diplomas to the Utah Jazz, saying the basketball team would often be anxious to win a world championship, forgetting that building a foundation was vital.

"Championships are fleeting. Next year there will be another champion," he said. "What you want to do is get a rock-solid base in who you are...What you have in your heart, combined with what you have in your brain, is what will make you a good, strong person."

Among the graduates were 378 individuals with stories of personal trials, like Amanda Bain. Originally en route to complete high school in 1996, she wanted to go to college and eventually join the U.S. Marines. But a month into her junior year, her vision was shattered – her father went to prison, she dropped out and turned to a life of drugs and crime. Upon her second prison term, Bain challenged herself to defy the odds and make constructive use of her short stay. She finished a huge load of school work less than two months. Set to parole 25 days after graduation, Bain said she is now full of self-confidence. She wants to be an example for her 12-year-old daughter and give her own mother a greater sense of pride.

“She cried when I told her I was graduating,” Bain said of her mother. “And I’ve missed a lot of my daughter’s life. But now she’ll be more apt to listen when I tell her to stay in school. I wish I would’ve done this when I was younger. Now I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.”

Still, like many other offenders, Bain is a realist. She acknowledges it’s hard to find a job – especially with a criminal past. Many graduates further bolster their odds through prison jobs or applying for more sought after positions with Utah Correctional Industries. UCI is a self-sustaining enterprise aimed at saving taxpayer money and giving inmates responsibility and work experience while incarcerated. Among other tasks, UCI inmates gentle horses, perform asbestos abatement, build homes, and make furniture and signage for the State. Graduates also can continue their education by enrolling in vocational-certification programs, offering hands-on training in trades like welding, auto maintenance and culinary arts.

These education and work programs are available to offenders who have demonstrated positive behavior in prison. The effort is part of a broader measure aimed at improving offenders’ knowledge, skills and abilities in hopes they will be able to provide for themselves and their dependents upon release, ultimately abandoning a criminal lifestyle and bolstering public safety in the community. Through grants and work within Adult Probation & Parole, Corrections seeks to help released offenders find employment.

The graduates concluding their high school education at the Draper site comprises more than one-third of the overall statewide inmate-graduate population. Additionally, more than 150 students are expected to graduate from Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison on June 23, and State inmates housed in various counties via a jail-contracting program will earn diplomas from those respective regions. About 1,025 inmates graduated from the combination of those three groups last year.

The Utah Department of Corrections appreciates a positive working relationship with the Utah State Office of Education, Canyons School District, South Sanpete School District, Snow College, Davis Applied Technology, Dixie Applied Technology, Uinta Basin Applied Technology, and the participating county jails along with each of their local school districts.

Top: A Corrections Officer monitors onlooking graduates as they listen to Frank Layden deliver the keynote speech.

Middle: Frank Layden stands at the podium beneath a basketball hoop in the Timpanogos Gymnasium and addresses the graduating class of 2011.

Above: A KSL-TV news camera films footage of Division of Institutional Operations Director Steve Turley addressing the 2011 South Park Academy graduating class.

News Clips:,0,913097.story

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Female Correctional Officers

KUTV Channel 2 News recently aired a segment exploring the work life of a female Correctional Officer. To read the story and watch the video, click here.