Enhancing the Vocational Skills of Incarcerated Women Through a Plumbing Maintenance Program

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Vocational education programs show promise for reducing recidivism, measured most typically through re-arrest and re-incarceration data, among adult offenders. Yet, such programs for women in U.S. correctional facilities have more often provided training in gender-stereotyped and lower-paid professions when compared to vocational programs in men's facilities. As the number of incarcerated women continues to climb, programs that help women develop marketable skills that will enable them to support their children upon release and overcome the economic marginalization that is so closely tied to offending is important for both the women and society. This paper describes a 16-hour, pre-plumbing program, designed to prepare individuals for basic plumbing maintenance in settings such as hotels and hospitals, taught by a plumber, to seven groups of women (N = 60) from four different county correctional facilities in New York State. The program incorporates hands-on work and evaluation, and emphasizes collaboration, a positive attitude, and confidence building, qualities necessary in the work force and to women's self-esteem. Across all groups, the mean gain on an 100 point post-test assessing understanding and mastery of course concepts was 32 points (SD = 18), a statistically significant difference. Lessons learned and suggestions for future research and program and policy reform are also described in the paper.

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Journal of Correctional Education





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