Inmate work programs must promote dignity and self-respect, in addition to instating useful skills and training, according to panelists at MACo’s Summer Conference.
Panelists in MACo’s Summer Conference Session, Green is the New Black, shared exciting news about inmate work programs in environmental services.
Robert Green, Director, Montgomery County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation described the potential benefits of work programs that improve inmates’ sense of self.
These programs must allow inmates to develop an image of themselves as contributing members of society – members of the work force, not correctional services. The ability to be in plain clothes, rather than “DOC” duds while performing work is critical to the success of the programs.
“If you’re going to have to wear a striped suit, just stay inside” —Robert Green, Director, Montgomery County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Marsha Briley, Director of Re-Entry and Transition Services, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, shared inmate work programs developed in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources to support the Chesapeake Bay, including shoreline projects and oyster ecology.
Lori Lilly, Director of the nonprofit Howard EcoWorks, described a farm they maintain through work programs with local inmates. She described the farm as a peaceful place, and the mental health benefits that ay be gained through the practice of nourishing plants. Food from the farm is provides produce for pantries that serve the poor.
Mary Gattis, Local Government Advisory Committee of the Chesapeake Bay Council, asked the panel how to best support the growth of these projects.
Rob Green responded that what is needed is help connecting inmates upon their release with job opportunities in farming and environmental work. He shared that 92% of inmates re-enter our communities, but many are barred from work opportunities because of their criminal records.
The Honorable Charles Sydnor, Maryland House of Delegates, moderated the panel, and shared updates from his work in the General Assembly to improve access to careers for former inmate re-entering society.