HCC Correctional Education Program is focus of roundtable with U.S. Senator John Cornyn

Oct 15, 2015

Houston Community College Chancellor, Dr. Cesar Maldonado met with U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Brian Green, CEO of the Houston Food Bank, and a host of community leaders for a roundtable discussion on prison reform. The focus of the visit was to discuss the new bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and the importance of education and training on rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.

“You can be tough on crime, but perhaps it’s just as important to be smart on crime,” Cornyn said.

HCC has led the way in Correctional Education as the first accredited community college program in the country to offer education and training to inmates and probationers.

“We’ve been doing this since the early 1970’s and serving about 4,000 inmates a year and we want to expand that,” Dr. Maldonado said. “This is a valuable resource for our community and we look forward to increasing our partnerships in this area.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act requires the Department of Justice to conduct risk assessments to classify all federal inmates and to use the results to assign inmates to appropriate recidivism reduction programs, including job training and education programs.

“There is more than enough money available, but a lot of it is being spent on things that don’t work. Some of it is being spent on incarceration that could be better spent helping people rehabilitate the lives and learning new skills,” Cornyn said.

Many prisoners experience significant challenges in reintegrating after they are released from prison. These challenges can be compounded by social disadvantage and complex needs related to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, homelessness, and unemployment. Studies show that many offenders tend to end up back in prison when they can’t find employment or if they have strained family and marital relations. As a result, the need for transition programs is paramount to the success of any correctional education program.

“We want to encourage Senator Cornyn to take a holistic approach in dealing with inmates so all their needs will be met, not just the education component,” HCC Correctional Education Program Director Robert Sims said. “This includes expanding the rehabilitation process outside the prison system to build partnerships with organizations and industries that will hire these students once they are released from jail.”

The HCC Correctional Education Program currently offers vocational education programs in 17 areas ranging from manufacturing to auto body and information technology, as well as GED classes. For more information visit hccs.edu.

 

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