The Education and Training unit (ETU) includes adult literacy and basic skills development, and work-based training programs. The ETU programs are designed to provide a continuum of educational experiences that would allow any inmate/student to enhance his(or her) practical/work skills and develop a viable work ethic.
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It is anticipated that more than three quarters of Oregon's inmates will participate in one or more ETU programs during a biennium.
In an effort to maintain low costs, the ETU makes use of established delivery systems by contracting with local community colleges to provide on-site educational services. In all cases, dedicated, licensed, and professional educators are employed to carry out the mandate to provide literacy and workforce preparation through programs carefully formulated, sequenced, and presented to the inmate population.
A recently passed amendment to the Oregon Constitution (Measure 17) requires that inmates, “work as hard as the taxpayers who provide for their upkeep” and “...to be fully engaged in productive activity if they are to successfully re-enter society with practical skills and viable work ethic...”.
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According to a national literacy study, illiteracy among prisoners is the highest of any segment of the American population. To meet the Oregon mandate, the gap between the inmates’ education and work skills at the time of entering the correctional system and those required by the current workforce must be narrowed. Utilizing the time of incarceration to this end is a better investment of taxpayer dollar than idleness or other non-productive activity.
Additionally, there are literally hundreds of studies produced by numerous federal, state, and local agencies that clearly show the positive impacts of education and training programs within a correctional setting. They explicitly demonstrate a significant reduction in recidivism, as well as increased employment on parole. The social and economic benefits realized by these two factors alone confirm the wisdom in providing educational and training opportunities for inmates.
The Department of Corrections (DOC), along with other state workforce development, education and training agencies, uses the Basic Adult Skills Inventory System (BASIS) and/or Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS) to determine literacy skill levels. With these tools, each Oregon inmate is assessed to identify his/her literacy skill levels at the point of entry into the system. In addition to skill level assessment, other demographic data is captured to assist in determining needed programs and services.
The total number of Oregon inmates served during the 2013-14 program year was 3,014. Based on reading and math assessments conducted during the intake process, 41.2% of the new intakes require educational services. The other 58.8% of new intakes have at least a verified high school diploma or GED certificate.
Percentage Scoring on Assessments
1. Below 230 in Reading - 20.8% (Below the minimum functional literacy levels established by the ´91 Oregon Legislature)
2. Below 235 in Reading (Below the educational level for High School entrance) – 34.1%
3. Below 230 in Math (Below the educational level for High School entrance) – 73.8%
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Note: Functional literacy goes beyond the simple ability to read words. The National Literacy Act of 1991 defines "literacy" as, "the individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential."
Oregon law (ORS 421.084) requires the establishment of a functional literacy* program for all individuals in the custody of Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) except those who are:
· Sentenced to less than one year
· Sentenced to life
· Sentenced to death
· Developmentally disabled
Inmates who score < 230 on Oregon BASIS or below 8th grade equivalency on other standardized tests (i.e. CASAS) are required to participate.
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In addition, ORS 339.020 requires the DOC to establish an educational program and require full-time attendance by any inmate under the age of 18 who has not completed 12th grade.
The educational program must provide a “course of study usually taught in grades 1 through 12 in the public school”. Full-time attendance is a minimum of 4 hours per day.
*Note: “Functional Literacy” means those educational skills necessary to function independently in society, including but not limited to reading, writing, comprehension and arithmetic computation.
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Federal law requires the DOC to insure that individuals with disabilities are provided appropriate education and related services.
· Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires individuals with disabilities to be provided with an education which is comparable to that provided to non-handicapped individuals.
· Accommodations for access to and the receipt of instructional material must be considered (those eligible for consideration under this provision includes anyone who has, or has had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or is regarded as handicapped by others).
· The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA requires special consideration and educational accommodations for anyone under the age of 22 who qualifies by having a disability that falls into one of 13 broad categories. Such categories include visual, learning, or speech impairment, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury, serious emotional disturbance, etc. Under the provision of IDEA, those who qualify require a written and specific Individual Educational Plan (IEP). This plan must be occasionally reviewed and re-evaluated.
These laws require DOC to establish a system that:
1. Identifies such disabilities within the inmate population.
2. Evaluates the extent of such disabilities (the barriers which the disabilities present).
3. Provides for appropriate services to overcome identified barriers and fulfill its duty to deliver educational material.
4. Develops procedural safeguards to ensure non-discrimination.
No. The Department of Corrections does not pay for any inmate to receive a college education. The Federal Crime Bill of 1994 excluded education grants, which had previously been available, to incarcerated individuals throughout the United States. Since that time, all inmates wishing to participate in a college credit course are allowed to do so at their own expense.
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