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Introduction to Workforce Development
With the passage of the Prison Reform and Inmate Work Act of 1994 (Ballot Measure 17), Oregon voters overwhelmingly launched the State of Oregon and the Department of Corrections in an unprecedented direction: they mandated, through a constitutional amendment, that all inmates should work or be engaged in a combination of work and workforce development activities, i.e., education and treatment, 40 hours per week.

In response to this constitutional change, Oregon´s Department of Corrections has continued to move forward its simple and long standing tradition of sound innovation in correctional practices. In the last few years, the department has automated its intake assessment process for each offender which results in the creation of an Offender Incarceration/Transition Plan; we have developed 24-hour automated schedules for each offender in the prison system; we have implemented, consistent with the Prison Reform Inmate Work Act, (Measure 17), an Offender Performance Recognition and Award System (PRAS) that reinforces pro-social program involvement and positive behavior throughout our institutions; we have developed a six-level, non-monetary, pro-social incentives system merged with PRAS; and we are rapidly building a new generation of work opportunities. These new basic systems put Oregon, once again, on the cost effective cutting edge of correctional practice nationwide.

Oregon´s decision to move work, sound security practices, and workforce development preparation to center stage requires a new mental model and prison routines that strives to normalize daily routine and reinforce responsible and accountable inmate behavior. Focusing and integrating all of the active ingredients of healthy work, family, and community ethics are the goals of Oregon´s skill building strategy. In short, the central initiative is getting offenders to actively address the risk factors. These target skills and behaviors are identified in their incarceration/transition plan. Oregon citizens clearly want offenders practicing on the inside the behaviors that produce good citizens on the outside.