The Employment Readiness Workshop in Maryland

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One of the most significant challenges for individuals after their release from prison is reintegration into society. Finding employment is a crucial part of this process, but it is often hard for people with a history of legal troubles to find employment. They face unique challenges in seeking employment, which can be associated with the lack of education, skills or previous experience, as well as with discriminatory policies of employers (Serrano, 2018; Couloute & Kopf, 2018). Consequently, formerly incarcerated individuals are at a high risk of unemployment, which affects their prospects of reintegrating into society. High unemployment rates can also contribute to recidivism, thus supporting the cycle and impairing formerly incarcerated individuals’ future.

Correctional education is seen as a potential way to improve the employability of inmates in preparation for their release. It can seek to build specific skills or provide experience that will benefit individuals in their future job search and employment. According to various studies, correctional education programs are effective in reducing recidivism rates because they promote employment among formerly incarcerated individuals (Contardo & Erisman, 2005; Steurer et al., 2010). There are also other benefits that inmates can gain from correctional education. For instance, it can encourage them to pursue further education upon release, thus increasing their academic and career prospects (Steurer et al., 2010). Education is also closely related with other correctional programs aimed at supporting the transition of formerly incarcerated individuals (Steurer et al., 2010). Nevertheless, not all correctional programs are equally effective. The way correctional education policy is applied in specific states and prisons can differ based on the resources available and the processes involved. For this reason, continuous monitoring and evaluation of correctional education programs is essential for facilitating the transition of formerly incarcerated people into society and their reentry into the workforce.

The program under consideration is the Employment Readiness Workshop of the Correctional Education Program in the State of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR). It aims to support the reentry of incarcerated individuals into Maryland’s workforce and local communities by providing academic, special education, occupational, and transitional services. The goal of the prorgam is to reduce recidivism rates among formerly incarcerated people in Maryland by enhancing their employability and offering opportunities for developing essential skills that facilitate reintegration. The Employment Readiness Workshop is a critical part of correctional education in Maryland since it seeks to help individuals develop the skills necessary to perform a job search, apply for jobs, and be selected for a position. The program takes place before the inmates are released and each year, approximately 500 inmates complete it. The program has significant potential to contribute to employment rates of formerly incarcerated individuals, but it has not been assessed for effectiveness yet. Hence, the project seeks to evaluate the program from the perspective of its participants.

The research adopted a qualitative approach to data collection and analysis, which allowed to gain insight into the participants’ beliefs about and attitudes toward the Employment Readiness Workshop. The sample included 10 women who have completed a transition program in Maryland State prisons in the last 6 months. Interviews were conducted to examine their views concerning the workshop and its usefullness for their transition. The data was then coded and evaluated to determine if the program provides the support necessary to develop the participants’ employability. Based on the findings, recommendations for improvement were generated, which could help to enhance the training further, thus enhancing correctional education in Maryland and its effectiveness in preventing recidivism.

Background and Context

Program or Process Description

The Employment Readiness Workshop is part of Maryland’s Correctional Education program for incarcerated individuals, which is essential to the transition of inmates into the State’s workforce and communities following their release (Correctional Education Council, 2019). Specifically, it is part of the Transition course, which includes programs aimed at the development of “life skills, financial literacy, introduction to computers, employment readiness and workforce development, and career exploration” (Correctional Education Council, 2019, p. 14). The Employment Readiness Workshop seeks to assist inmates in their future job search and decrease the risk of unemployment.

As part of the workshop, inmates learn various skills that will help them to get a job and stay in it after they are released from prison. These including interview, job searching, career planning, and more (Correctional Education Council, 2019). The program also involves setting employment and career goals based on the SMART framework. As a result, inmates leave prison with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals concerning their future employment, which helps them to start searching for a job early and motivates them to consider various opportunities available on the job market. Another important part of the program is that it develops the inmates’ support network in relation to career development and job searching. As part of the program, inmates attend the DPSCS Exit Orientation and gain access to resources to support the fulfillment of their career goals, with a DPSCS case manager overseeing their plans and progress (Correctional Education Council, 2019). They are also referred to the American Job Centers, where they can find employment before they are released so that the transition occurs as quickly as possible (Correctional Education Council, 2019).

Overall, the content and scope of the program targets a variety of needs that incarcerated individuals have in terms of employment. On the one hand, it helps inmates to develop the soft skills that they will need to find employment after they are released from prison and can reintegrate the workforce freely. As a result, individuals feel more confident while searching for jobs and attending interviews and have higher chances of finding employment successfully. On the other hand, the program also creates a support network, which includes transition specialists and resources that former inmates can use to make the process of finding employment quicker and easier. Through their collaboration with transition specialists, inmates can review potential career options, plan for further education, and develop goals that they could pursue when their term ends. The fact that some inmates are able to find employment before they leave the program is also beneficial since this improves their self-sufficiency. Hence, the program is crucial for developing inmates’ employability and supporting them in attaining their transition goals after release. The evaluation conducted as part of the project will be summative since it will consider the

Organizational Context

The cirumstances that influence the problem include sociopolitical and economic. From one perspective, incarceration rates in the United States are extremely high in comparison with other countries. The latest report by Wagner and Sawyer (2018) for the Prison Policy Initiative shows that the United States lead the world in terms of the number of incarcerated individuals, with 698 people per every 100,000 of the population held in correctional facilities. Even countries with traditionally high rates of crime and incarceration, including El Salvador and Cuba, do not compare with this figure (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018). Furthermore, many states of the United States have even higher rates of incarceration, with 23 states ranking above the national average (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018). In Maryland, the incarceration rate is somewhat lower than the national average at 585 per 100,000 of the population (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018). With such a high share of individuals in correctional facilities, transitional services become essential to the functioning of society.

Social forces, including the attitudes toward people with a history of incarceration, also contribute to the problem. Couloute and Kopf (2018) note that, “although employers express willingness to hire people with criminal records, evidence shows that having a record reduces employer callback rates by 50%” (para. 8). For formerly incarcerated individuals, this complicates the transition and re-integration into society, causing multiple issues including poor self-sufficiency, increased risk of recidivism, and unsafe living situations. As a result of these trends, avoiding unemployment has become a key concern for transition programs all over the country, with states supporting employment readiness projects as part of correctional education.

In Maryland, the Employment Readiness Workshop was established with the same goal. Over the years, hundreds of people have completed the training successfully, finding employment before release or shortly after. However, there are no formal processes for evaluating the workshop, which is why it is essential to perform an assessment now.

Factors that were supportive of the evaluation study included access to past participants of the workforce, my experience with correctional education programs in Maryland, and the consent of most past participants to take part in the evaluation. One particular barrier to the study was the lack of past evaluation data, which would have allowed assessing progress over time. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated social distancing, which did not allow collecting data in person. This affected the evaluation study, and the interviews had to be held over the phone or on Skype instead. Besides these factors, there were no other constraints that have influenced the study.

The data collection and analysis process did not require collaboration with others. However, it was necessary to obtain institutional approval before contacting past students and interviewing them. In order to do that, I contacted the workshop’s leaders and told them more about the evaluation project, including the possible benefits that could be derived from it and how ethical guidelines and standards would be met throughout conducting the project. Timely communication and full disclosure of the project’s goals, outcomes, and design helped to obtain institutional approval for the evaluation.

My role in the organization is closely tied to the selected program since I work in the State of Maryland as the Coordinator of Correctional Education-Transition. This role required managing the transitional programs offered in the state to all incarcerated individuals prior to their release from institutions. In addition, I play a part in designing transition plans for special education students who are part of the transition programs. Although I do not have any prior experience with program evaluations, I had the main part in the current assessment. Specifically, I was responsible for gaining institutional approval, contacting and recruiting participants for the study, conducting interviews, recording interview transcripts, and analyzing them. I was also responsible for ensuring that the evaluation meets all ethical standards and guidelines both for research involving human subjects and for working with formerly incarcerated individuals. My role in the project allowed for a significant degree of control over the procedures, which is why I was able to meet all the requirements.

Rationale for the Evaluation

The need for evaluation is justified by three key factors. First of all, the high incarceration rate in the State necessitates effective transition programs. As mentioned above, Maryland’s share of people who are in correctional institutions is rather high despite being below the national average (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018). This means that a significant proportion of the state’s population needs to be transitioned into society after they serve their sentences in prison.

Secondly, unemployment is a major concern for formerly incarcerated individuals, and they benefit from the support and information provided in transition programs. Unemployment rates of people who had a history of imprisonment is much higher than the national average (Couloute & Kopf, 2018). Although discrimination in employment plays a significant role in this trend, research shows that effective correctional education and transition programs reduce the risk of unemployment and support formerly incarcerated individuals in their re-integration into the workforce (Contardo & Erisman, 2005; Newtn et al., 2018). These programs also reduce the rate of reoffending, thus preventing formerly inracrerated individuals from re-entering prisons (Graffam, Shinkfield, & Lavelle, 2014). Evaluating programs can help to tailor them to the needs of the target population, thus making them more effective at addressing the problems of unemployment and recidivism.

Finally, the rationale for focusing on the female population is also evident from research. The rate of unemployment among formerly incarcerated women is generally higher than that of the male population, and black women who have been incarcerated show the highest unemployment rate across all populations (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018). Hence, women require more support while attempting to re-enter the workforce and plan their future careers. Making the Employment Readiness Workshop more effective by identifying and correcting any issues evident in it would help in supporting women’s re-entry into the workforce after incarceration.

Review of the Literature

The review of the literature seeks to support the evaluation study in two ways. On the one hand, it establishes the relevance and importance of employment readiness programs based on scholarly research surrounding the issues identified in the previous sections, including the growth in incarceration rates, unemployment, and the threat of recidivism. This part of the review will also explain the need for studying the effects of employment-supporting programs on women. On the other hand, the review will set the theoretical framework for the evaluation by explaining the theory related to the program and the type of evaluation applied. The literature review will thus help to highlight important practical issues that were considered as part of the evaluation while also highlighting the theories contributing to the evaluation.

Relevance and Importance of Employment Readiness Programs

Growing Incarceration Rates

One of the topics that is relevant to the topic is the growing incarceration rates since they support the need for effective, comprehensive transition programs and correctional education. According to the article by Western and Petit (2010), between 1980 and 2008, the average rate of incarceraton in the United States increased from 221 to 762 per 100,000 people. In the past decade, some improvements have been achieved, but the problem remains relevant throughout the country. As of 2019, there were a total of 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails in the United States (Sawyer & Wagner, 2019). Research on incarceration rates in the United States is broad and considers various aspects of the topic, including the reason for the problem, the associated costs, and potential solutions.

The reasons for the growth of incarceration rates are commonly found in policing, as well as in legal and sociological forces affecting the American population. According to the report by the National Research Council (2014), the forces contributing to the problem developed over decades, and it was not triggered by a single event. Rather, the uncertainty surrounding law enforcement policies, the increased role of the federal government in States’ criminal justice and law enforcement, and the increase in crime rates between the 1960s and the 1980s all supported the upcoming increase in the jailed population (NRC, 2014). These changes created a positive environment for harsher criminal justice policies and laws, which paved the way to stricter sentences and granted more power to the law enforcement (NRC, 2014). Racial discrimination and economic challenges also contributed to the issue since people of color and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds showed the highest growth in incarceration rates (NRC, 2014). Together, these trends supported the increases in the rates of arrests, convictions, and the length of prison sentences.

While harsher policing may not seem as a concern to many people, mass incarceration has significant negative consequences for the population of the United States. On the one hand, the problem contributes to the expenses of federal, state, and local governments and accounts for a substantial part of the budget. The annual expenses on public corrections agencies in the United States were $80.7 billion in 2017 (Wagner & Rabuy, 2017). However, as researchers explain, these agencies only account for a part of the total financial costs of mass incarceration. When other agencies and their expenses are taken into account, including policing, judicial, and legal costs, the total annual cost of mass incarceration is $182 billion (Wagner & Rabuy, 2017). On the other hand, high incarceration rates also contribute to social inequality and impair the lives of communities. Research highlights the negative impact of mass incarceration on racial disparities, population health, and socioeconomic well-being of vulnerable populations (Hatzenbuehler et al., 2015; Western & Petit, 2010; Wildeman & Wang, 2017). These consequences make mass incarceration a critical issue in the United States and necessitate effective solutions to reduce reoffending and create a fairer criminal justice system.

Solutions to mass incarceration have been widely debated in the literature since it is unclear whether or not reducing the prison population is a realistic goal. Nevertheless, scholars suggest that addressing racial disparities in policing and sentencing, reforming criminal justice systems to give more power to local authorities, downsizing prisons, and reducing sentences for nonviolent crimes could help to alleviate the issue (Kubrin & Seron, 2016; Lynch, 2011). Until these changes are implemented comprehensively throughout the United States, reducing recidivism and preventing people from re-entering prisons is crucial, and correctional education is of pivotal importance in this process.

Incarceration of Women

Gender differences in incarceration should also be examined since the evaluation focused specifically on female offenders. Research suggests that there are significant vairiations between male and female offenders with respect to incarceration. Firstly, women’s state prison populations have grown faster than men’s, and the increase between the 1980s and 2015 was more significant (Sawyer & Wagner, 2019). Despite men making up the majority of the prison population, women are entering jails at higher rates, and women of color are also disproportionately represented in the prison population (Fedock et al., 2013). The main reason for this trend is that women face a higher risk of incarceration for minor, non-violent crimed compared to men (McLemore & Hand, 2017). As a result, the population of women in prisons and jails is likely to grow further in the future if no action is taken to remedy the issue.

Secondly, research has found that women in prisons are in greater need of support since they experience a higher prevalence of substance use disorder, homelessness before and after incarceration, serious mental illness, and psychological trauma (Fedock et al., 2013). Consequently, reintegration into society and the workforce can be even more challenging for women, and transition programs have to take this factor into account. Meeting women’s needs through well-tailored transitional and correctional education programs could help to prevent reoffending, thus reducing the rate of incarceration among women.

Unemployment among Formerly Incarcerated Women

Unemployment is another issue that shows significant gender disparities when it comes to formerly incarcerated populations. According to Couloute and Kopf (2018), white women who have been in prisons have an unemployment rate of 23.2% compared to a 18.4% rate among white men and the general population rate of 4.3% for both white men and white women. Black women who have been imprisoned have the highest rate of unemployment across all populations studied. Over 43.5% of black women remain unemployed following incarceration, compared to 35.2% of black men (Couloute & Kopf, 2018). The difference is even more striking when acknolwedging that the general unemployment rate among black women is lower than that of black men, at 6.4% compared to 7.7% (Couloute & Kopf, 2018). The gender differences in unemployment show how finding a job is particularly challenging yet crucial for females following their release from correctional faclities.

Formerly incarcerated women report various issues that affect their chances of finding employment and staying self-sufficient. For example, López-Garza (2016) states that, upon release from correctional facilities, women face numerous impediments to employment. For example, many professions where females are overrepresented, including education and some service occupations, are closed to applicants with criminal history due to interactions with at-risk populations (López-Garza, 2016). The lack of formal education and job experience is also an important barrier to women in finding a job (López-Garza, 2016). Discrimination in employment is relevant to previously incarcerated women to the same degree as to men, if not more: “If they did not have to check that box, the respondents in her research study strongly believe that they would have a fair and reasonable chances of securing employment and becoming productive members of society” (López-Garza, 2016, p. 82). These issues affect women’s ability to find and keep a job after being released from prison, having a negative impact on their future lives.

Unemployment and Recidivism

One of the reasons as to why unemployment is a significant issue for transition programs is that it is tightly linked to recidivism among formerly incarcerated individuals. Studies confirm the relationship between unemployment and reoffending rates, showing how individuals who do not find employment soon after their release are at a higher risk for recidivism. For example, a 5-year follow-up study by Nally et al. (2014) focused on offenders convicted of various types of crimes, including violent, non-violent, sex, and drug crimes, their employment, education, and recidivism. The results of the study highlighted that education and employment had significant negative effect on recidivism, and mattered more than the offenders’ race, gender, and age (Nally et al., 2014). Another study by Siwach (2018) confirmed the relationship between employment and reoffending. In this study, the author noted that offenders who served time for property crimes were particularly influenced by unemployment (Siwach, 2018). These results suggest that the economic shocks that come with unemployment have a strong influence on the likelihood of reoffending among all types of offenders, regardless of crime severity and their demographic characteristics.

Employment Readiness Programs

In the context of mass incarceration, gender disparities in incarceration, and the relationship between unemployment and recidivism, employment readiness is a critical concern for incarcerated females. Finding employment offers them a chance to become self-sufficient, reintegrate into society and develop support systems preventing them from recidivism (López-Garza, 2016; Siwach, 2018). Prison training and educational programs aimed at supporting job search and employment are widespread, and research data prove their value to individuals and communities. For example, a study by Hunter and Boyce (2009) noted that by completing employment readiness programs, incarcerated individuals were able to build the soft skills required for long-term employment, achieve new qualifications, and obtain work experience. Moreover, training in job search and interview skills contributed to their confidence, which had a positive perceived effects on employment search following their release (Hunter & Boyce, 2009). A randomized controlled trial by Cook et al. (2015) noted similar benefits based on employment and reoffending rates. According to the scholars, a re-entry program combining post-release employment support with social services prior to release had a significant positive influence on reducing rearrest rates among high-risk offenders. Furthremore, the differences in employment were also evident, with former inmates who have completed the program having a 20% higher chances of finding employment after release (Cook et al., 2015). Hence, employment readiness programs are an important component in addressing the issues discussed in the previous sections, and they can help to re-introduce previously imprisoned individuals into society.

Theoretical Framework

Program’s Theoretical Framework

The focus of the Employment Readiness Workship is on the behavior of participants that influences their job search and employment. Throughout the program, students are encouraged to engage in career planning, goal-setting, and other activities designed to improve their actions following release. hence, the learning theory that the program draws on is behaviorism. In this theory, learning equates “with changes in either the form or frequency of observable performance” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 48), meaning that students learn desirable behaviors through experience. Behaviorism focuses largely on the importance of consequences in learning bheavior, with positive reinforcement used to stimulate learning (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). Learning generated through the application of behaviorism can be transferred into similar context (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). For example, interview practice will help learners to repeat the desirable actions in real interviews. Behaviourism is appropriate to the Employment Readiness Workshop since the participant’s behaviors in job search can influence their chances of employment after release.

Evaluation Model/Type of Evaluation

The evaluation model that was used in the current project is ADDIE, which stands for a multi-step process of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. The ADDIE model focuses on assessing instructional problems and targeting them by implementing solutions and assessing their success (Lund, 2015). The five-step process involved in the model allows to approach instructional problems comprehensively and form evidence that could be used to remedy them, thus improving instruction and learning outcomes (Lund, 2015). Summative assessments are used as part of this model to evaluate instruction before and after the implementation of improvement efforts. Hence, the model will allow not only to examine the effectiveness of the program in addressing the participants’ needs but also to enhance the program and assess its future performance.

Specialization-Related Theory

Correctional education theory is essential to the current project since it provides the foundations necessary for evaluation. Correctional education focuses largely on skill-based learning, seeking to assist students in developing the abilities that will allow them to re-integrate into society following their release (Hunter & Boyce, 2009; Correctional Education Council, 2019). The skills developed as part of correctional education are essential for promoting transition into the workforce as part of employment readiness programs since inmates often lack skills related to job search, interviews, and related processes (Hunter & Boyce, 2009). Another essential component of correlational education theory is need-based education. Programs designed to support transition and prevent recidivism typically focus on meeting the individual needs of inmates (Blomberg et al., 2011; Hunter & Boyce, 2009; McLemore & 2017; Newton et al., 2018). Needs assessments are part of correctional education and serve as a foundation for determining the instructional content and support that the person will obtain from the program. This helps to promote an individual approach while also ensuring successful program outcomes.

Systems and Change Theory

Systems theory is particularly relevant to correctional education and employment readiness programs for inmates because they experience a transition from one system to the other. Systems theory focuses on organizations as a whole and examines the relationships between different parts of a system, as well as on interrelationships between systems (Senge, 2012). The behavior of systems is a crucial concern in this theory (Senge, 2012). In correctional education, this theory is applied to explain the experiences of inmates as they go through transition and create support networks including various actors of the system, such as educators, transition specialists, and social workers.

Change theory is also relevant to the evaluation since it describes how change occurs and explains the forces influencing it. In the context of employment readiness, one change theory that is particularly useful is the self-efficacy theory of behavioral change proposed by Bandura (1977). According to this theory, behavioral change occurs due to alterations in the person’s self-efficacy, which is defined as the person’s perceptions and expectations of the efficacy of the behavior (Bandura, 1977). In terms of employment readiness programs, one of the main goals is to develop the participants’ confidence through building skills and experience. As a result of these programs, participants increase their self-efficacy and are thus likely to repeat the learned behavior in the future to achieve the desired outcome.


On the whole, the literature review explains the problems that contribute to the importance of the problem and sets the study’s theoretical framework. Based on research, it is clear the the growth in incarceration rates has a negative effect on individuals and communities. Employment struggles resulting from incarceration have an adverse effect on the quality of people’s lives, and this problem affects women disproportionately. This necessitates evaluating whether the Employee Readiness Workshop meets the needs of women released from correctional institutions in Maryland. The theoretical framework for the study rests on several important theories, including the systems theory, self-efficacy theory of behavor change, and behaviourism learning theory. The evaluation utilized the ADDIE model since it assists in implementing program improvements, thus stimulating effective learning.

Evaluation Methods 8

Evaluation Plan 2

The evaluation followed an eight-step process, which included preparation, data collection, data analysis, and evaluation. The first step of the evaluation was defining the purpose and determining the audience for data collection. This process took approximately 3 to 4 days and resulted in the finalization of the study’s purpose, scope, and goals to be achieved as a result of the evaluation. The second step of the project involved devising data collection methods based on scholarly literature. Books and articles comparing different data collection methods were analyzed in order to select the right approach that would help to gather all the necessary data. This step took approximately one week due to the need to clarify methodolfogical advantages and disadvantages of various data collection methods and create an instrument to collect data.

The third step of the process was sampling and contacting participants to schedule interviews. The list of past participants of the Employment Readiness Workshop was provided by the institution, and ten women were selected to participate in the interviews. They were contacted using the information provided in the list and asked to participate in the evaluation. When some of the women refused, additional sampling was performed to reach an appropriate sample size. All prospective participants received full information about the process of the evaluation, its purpose, and intended results. This step of the evaluation process lasted 3 to 4 days and ended when all 10 participants agreed to take part in the evaluation study.

The fourth step of the process involved getting the required approval from the Institutional Review Board, determining ethical considerations relevant to the evaluation and discussing them with stakeholders and participants. The IRB approval form was prepared, which described the evaluation study process, data collection and analysis tools, and measures that would be taken to address ethical considerations. As part of the assessment, it was discovered that the main concerns associated with the study were participant privacy and confidentiality. These concerns were discussed with the stakeholders and participants, and appropriate measures to control them were developed. The procedures associated with this step of the evaluation study took about three weeks.

Once the previous steps were complete, it was also necessary to decide how the data collected as a result of the evaluation will be used to assess program effectiveness. At this stage, information about the context of the program, its theoretical foundations, and participants’ needs was collected in order to design evaluation questions and determine how they would help to enhance the program. This step took 3 or 4 days, after which data collection process began.

The data collection period lasted only one week because interviews were conducted over the phone and it was easy to schedule them. The interviews were structured, following a set of pre-defined questions, with answers recorded in text form. Each of the participants answered all of the questions included in the instrument, which helped to ensure that the data were comprehensive.

Next, data analysis was performed to evaluate the program based on interview responses. This process followed the three-step coding process used in qualitative data analysis and took approximately two weeks. Finally, the write-up of the evaluation was prepared to communicate the results to constituents. This was the most lengthy step of the process as the information had to be structured appropriately and edited to ensure comprehensiveness and usefullness to constituents.

Stakeholders, Participants, and Target Audience

The primary group of stakeholders that will be influenced by the outcomes of the evaluation are inmates in Maryland State prisons. Because the evaluation focused on the Employment Readiness Program delivered to them, the implementation of recommendations based on evaluation results will influence the success of their transition into the state’s workforce following release. The Transition Coordinator and the Director of Correctional Education are also among the stakeholders of the evaluation study because the results of the assessment will influence their future work. For example, they might need to develop new programs for the workshop or establish procedures to evaluate its success regularly.

The participants of the evaluation project included women who completed the Employment Readiness Workshop in one of Maryland’s state prisons over the past 6 months. The sample only included women who were currently living in the community because, as a DLLR employee, I could not contact former inmates after their release. Ten women were chosen from the list of inmates who could be accessed for feedback, and the sampling method was non-probability sampling. While selecting prospective participants for the evaluation, I aimed to include women of various backgrounds in order to ensure that the data would be comprehensive and various perspectives would be taken into account. The size of the sample was appropriate for the goals of the study since interviews provide more information than other methods of data collection. Because the women included in the sample have all participated in the same program, this sample size allowed to determine how well the workshop met the needs of various women.

The target audience of the evaluation includes the State of Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, since the evaluated program results from the collaboration of these two departments. The aim of the evaluation project was to provide the information required to assess the current effectiveness of the program and determine ways in which the workshop could be improved to better meet the needs of women who complete it. Therefore, various persons involved in the design and management of the Employment Readiness Workshop were the target audience of the evaluation study.

Evaluation Questions

Based on preliminary review of scholarly articles and studies on the topic of correctional education and employment readiness programs, the following set of evaluation was developed:

  • Is the program (Employment Readiness Workshop) applied consistently within the transition course?
  • How does the program support inmates in reintegrating into the community?
  • How does the program help to reduce recidivism risk among its participants?
  • How does the program influence the participants’ behavior upon release in terms of employment and job search?
  • To what extent does the program meet the needs of incarcerated women transitioning into society?
  • What are the gaps that should be addressed in program design to improve its effectiveness?

The first question was selected due to the need to evaluate whether or not there are any procedural gaps in the program’s delivery. If any of the integral components of the program are not applied consistently, this could have a significant effect on its outcomes, preventing some participants from yielding the intended benefits. The second question was developed in order to understand the transition experiences of women who had completed the program and the role of their learning in the process of reintegration. In essence, this question evaluated how well the program functions based on its goals. The third question considered recidivism as one of the key outcomes of the transition process. By investigating how the program helps to address recidivism, the evaluation clarified how it contributed to preventing the re-entry of participants into the system.

The fourth question focused specifically on the application of theory as part of the program and its effectiveness in promoting employability and employment readiness. By answering this question, the study showed whether the program resulted in behavioral changes that are instrumental to finding employment after release. The fifth question was chosen to summarize program outcomes in terms of meeting the participants’ needs. As evident from research, formerly incarcerated women have unique needs that make them vulnerable to problems such as unemployment, homelessness, and recidivism after release. By meeting these needs, the program fulfills its main goal and supports women’s re-integration into society and workforce. Finally, the last question was chosen to summarize potential improvements suggested by the participants and evident from the data analysis. This question was instrumental in designing recommendations for improvement.

Data Collection and Procedures

The evaluation focused on the participants’ experiences and perspectives on the Employment Readiness Workshop. For this reason, interviews were the only data source utilized as part of the study. Interviews were selected as a tool for data collection since they allow the participants to add more comments and share their views freely. Hence, they were deemed the most appropriate source of data for the evaluation.

The interviews were conducted during the data collection stage. A total of 10 one-on-one interviews were scheduled for the participants of the evaluation. The interviews were not time-bound, and thus participants could prove as many details as they wanted in their answers. The schedule was agreed with all the stakeholders to ensure that the interviews would not interrupt the other commitments of former inmates or disrupt their work. During the interviews, the participants were encouraged to provide details or expand on their answers as appropriate to ensure that all aspects of each question were considered. The data collection instrument included a set of interview questions developed specifically for the present evaluation. Interview questions concerned the participants’ experience in terms of program participation, re-integration, employment, and recidivism, and thus all of the evaluation questions were addressed through interview data.

Data Analysis Methods 1

As mentioned above, the only source of data for the evaluation were the participant’s interviews. The total number of interview transcripts generated at the data collection stage was 10, and each of them went through qualitative data analysis procedures. In line with the needs of the evaluation, the data were analyzed using the three-step coding process, including open, axial, and selective coding.

First, open coding was applied to identify the main themes in participants’ responses. This helped to gather the general ideas based on interview transcripts that were relevant to the evaluation. Then, these themes were grouped and related to one another through the process of axial coding. Related themes were grouped into categories so that they could be analysed together and related to other categories evident in the transcript. Finally, selective coding was applied to relate qualitative data categories to evaluation questions, thus forming conclusions based on the participant’s responses. Once all the results were analyzed and interpreted, conclusions regarding program evaluation and outcomes were formulated. Recommendations provided in the next section of the report followed directly from the results of the data analysis.

It should be noted that not all answers provided by the participants were included in the analysis. The instrument designed for the study also involved questions about the participants’ demographics, such as ethnicity, age, and education level, and some details of their incarceration. These data were collected to highlight if there are any experiences that relate to the participant’s demographics. However, since the answers were not in full sentences, they could not be analysed using the three-step coding process identified in the previous paragraph.


Although the selected methodology was deemed appropriate for the evaluation study, there were some constraints that affected data collection procedures. First of all, workers employed in the Maryland State Correctional Education program are not permitted to communicate or interact with inmates upon their release. Students are encouraged to contact their teachers, case managers, and transition specialists upon release to provide information. However, many of them wish to disconnect from their time in prison and choose not to report back, and employees are not allowed to initiate contact. This limited access to participants by narrowing down the pool of formerly incarcerated women who completed the program and could be included in the study. Nevertheless, this limitation did not have a major impact on data collection since it was possible to achieve the desired sample size despite the restrictions.

Another limitation that should be discussed is the fact that the women interviewed as part of the evaluation varied in terms of the length of time that they had spent out of prison. This could have affected the results of the study in two ways. On the one hand, women who had been released recently likely have better memories about the program, its content, and their thoughts about it. Hence, their answers were often more detailed, and it is likely that they were also more accurate. On the other hand, the length of time passed from the date of release could have also influenced womens’ thoughts on their risk of recidivism, which was addressed in the interviews. In particular, women who have been released recently likely have more optimistic attitudes about their reintegration into society and workforce, which affected their perceptions of recidivism.

Lastly, the setting of the study was limited to a single state, which means it is not possible to say if the experiences of women who have completed employment readiness training in other states were similar. This limits the transferability of the study’s outcomes into practice, as the results and recommendations will only be applicable to the chosen setting.

In preparation for the study, some steps were taken to address possible weaknesses and improve the validity and reliability of the evaluation. First of all, the questions included in the data collection instrument were designed based on past research on the topic of employment readiness in correctional education, as well as on the study’s questions. This helped to ensure high face validity since the questions reflected each topic targeted in the evaluation. To enhance the reliability of the study, the researcher selected semi-structured interviews for data collection. While the participants were encouraged to provide more details or expand on their answers during interviews, the set of questions was pre-determined, increasing the coherency of responses and narrowing down the focus of the interview. These considerations helped to improve the methodological quality of the evaluation, thus mediating the limitations identified in this section.

Ethical Considerations

Research involving human subjects involves various ethical issues that have to be addressed by the researcher to prevent harm to participants and improve the quality of the study. The first issue that was highlighted at the preparation stage was potential coercion since some women could feel obliged to participate in the study. To remedy this concern, the principle of informed consent was applied. Upon first contact with potential participants, each of them received full information about the evaluation, its goals, and procedures. It was also noted that participation was entirely voluntary and they could refuse to take part in case they had other commitments or did not wish to provide any information

Other essential ethical concerns that had to be addressed were participant privacy and confidentiality. Even though all participants provided informed consent to take part in interviews, it was necessary to ensure that their identifying information will not be revealed to third parties. To address this concern, the participant’s names and contact information were excluded from the records; instead, numbers were used to distinguish between the women. This helped to protect the participant’s identities and unintentional personal data leaks.

Finally, due to my employment in the Correctional Education problem, conflicts of interest also had to be examined. The results of the evaluation, while beneficial to the development of the program, posed no risk to my employment. Therefore, there were no conflicts of interest that could have influenced the outcomes of the study.

Findings and Recommendations 10

Data Analysis

As explained above, the data analysis process included three steps: open coding, axial coding, and selective coding. The transcripts generated from interviews were first analyzed to highlight the key themes. These themes were then grouped into categories across responses and matched with research questions to develop conclusions and data interpretations. Overall, the results of data analysis suggested that the Employment Readiness Workshop was useful and relevant to women but there were also some gaps that have to be addressed to improve its quality and coverage.

First of all, most women agreed that the program was helpful because it provided them with motivation and made them optimistic about re-integration into workforce. The participants noted that the transition specialists were very supportive of their goals and made them believe that they could achieve them if they approach their employment appropriately. For exanple, one woman noted that she “felt motivation to turn [her] life around and earn money legally”. Another formerly incarcerated woman said that “the TS was so supportive, I felt that she believed in me”.

Planning and goal-setting also emerged as major themes in the participants’ responses. The interviewees noted that they were encouraged to plan their career path at least a few years into the future, which “gave a sense of direction” and helped to “see a way out”. One of the women was very impressed with the SMART framework applied by the TS and began applying it in other areas of her life, achieving great results at 4 months after release.

Most of the women also noted that their confidence increased as they gained employment-related skills and experience while completing the workshop. Some of the participants noted that they had no previous experience of searching for the job, and the workshop helped to make the process less confusing for them. Three of the women mentioned interview training specifically, noting that it helped them to stop fearing interviews and become more confident. Specifically, one woman noted, “I’ve always been scared of presenting myself to new people but practice makes perfect. Model interviews made me feel good about myself.”

The last topic that became prominent during the analysis was the improved understanding of employment opportunities available. The women noted that transition specialists supported their choice of occupation by listing the jobs that were available to them upon release. This was instrumental to their future employment because they had not heard about these opportunities before or had not considered them until taking part in the program. For example, one of the women stated, “I never thought I would be interested in a service job, but the TS told me about its perks and that I could get promoted quickly”. Two other women also said that their choice of occupation was influenced by the information offered in the program. Interestingly, one woman said that, despite not finding the right job during the workshop, she was able to use the same resources as her TS to learn more after her release and selected an appropriate career this way.

The weaknesses of the program were also explored in most interviews, with eight out of 10 women noting at least one issue. Gaps in program application were evident from interviews because not all women received the same scope of services. For instance, two women did not have any career planning sessions, whereas some others were not referred to the American Job Center or did not receive any useful assistance from it. Another prominent concern shared by women in their interviews was that the workshop did not consider the mental and physical health issues that could affect their employment. For instance, one woman said that:

  • lack of consideration of mental and physical health status
  • limited consideration of opportunities


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DemoEssays. "The Employment Readiness Workshop in Maryland." February 12, 2023.