NECC Now Running Essex County Corrections Educational Programs
The recent PBS documentary series College Behind Bars claims that, as a country, we have failed to provide meaningful rehabilitation for the over two million people living behind bars. With its new partnership with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department (ECSD), Northern Essex Community College is working to address this issue by providing flexible educational opportunities to Essex County inmates.
The college is now offering educational programming for up to 160 students at five locations county-wide. The classes include High School Equivalency (HiSET or GED prep); English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), college and career readiness; computer literacy and applications, as well as college credit courses in English and US History.
Over 90% of the students served are housed at the Middleton House of Corrections, where the classes are voluntary. Classes are also offered at the Lawrence Pre-release and Re-entry Center on a voluntary basis and at the three Offices of Community Corrections in Lawrence, Lynn, and Salisbury, where classes are required by the courts as a condition of probation or parole.
“I am proud that our correctional facility in Middleton is home to the southern campus of Northern Essex Community College,” said Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger. “We’ve made a commitment to providing opportunities for inmates to improve themselves through our Consolidated Re-entry Services division with a continuum of services, including education services, career and college readiness advising, life skills, vocational training programs and more. Northern Essex is vital partner in these efforts,” said Coppinger.
All programs are open enrollment, meaning new students may leave and join the classes on any given week. “This is due to the nature of the inmate population,” said Adam Cutler, NECC’s director of education, corrections. “Due to pre-trial status and sentence lengths, the inmate population is in a constant flux.”
The Goal is to Reduce the Recidivism Rate
It’s not surprising that inmates who participate in educational programming while incarcerated are less likely to reoffend after they are released from prison.
A study by the RAND Corporation in 2013 found that inmates who were in correctional educational programs were 43% less likely to return to prison after being released.
Educational programs, like the one Northern Essex is implementing with the ECSD, help inmates create viable education and career pathways, according to Cutler. “Investments in education provide inmates with the tools needed to get a job and/or continue their education. The resulting outcomes can be life changing for individuals and their families while making our communities safer.”
NECC Selected as Part of a Competitive Grant Process
Northern Essex was selected to run the Essex County Sheriff’s Department education programs after a competitive request for proposals.
The college is working in collaboration with the ECSD’s Clinical Services provider Spectrum Health Systems, Inc., which offers evidenced-based treatments and programs including parenting, life skills, alternatives to violence and other cognitive based therapies.
Close to twenty staff members have been hired, including four on-site academic and career advisors; teachers; law librarians for the inmate’s law library, which Northern Essex manages; a community advisor to help individuals transition from jail to the community; and Cutler, the program director. Cutler reports to Irene Chalek, the college’s Center for Adult Education Executive Director.
Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers more than 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth. Each year, more than 5,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,600 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley. For more information, visit the website at www.necc.mass.edu or call 978-556-3700.