Who is Maryland Correctional Enterprises?

Six years ago, I was fortunate enough to join the wonderful team at Maryland Correctional Enterprises (MCE) and enter a world I admittingly knew very little about. As the daughter of a police officer and an extremely paranoid mother, you can imagine their excitement when I called home to tell them I had gotten a job in the prison system…

Within the first five minutes inside of an MCE business unit, my (and soon my parents’) naive, preconceived notions of what happened inside of a correctional institution would change forever. I was instantly amazed by the skill level and pride of the inmate workforce. The people I spoke to inside of the institutions were, and continue to be, some of the politest, talented, and passionate people I know.

So what are correctional industries and what role does it, specifically MCE, play in rehabilitation? The answers are many, but the most prevalent is that correctional industries are in the business of transforming lives for the better. MCE serves as a cognitive and skill-building program that inmates can participate in during their incarceration. As a self-supporting state agency, the goods and services we produce are sold to a restricted market of governmental agencies and non-profits within the state of Maryland. Revenues we receive from these goods and services are reinvested into inmate pay, civilian pay, and additional programming for the population. In addition to providing this much-needed programming, we do it at no cost to the taxpayers.

Our civilian staff consists of industry experts who are not only responsible for operating a manufacturing center but for training an entry-level workforce with the skills they need to one day enter the private sector workforce outside of the prison walls. We have 26 business units within our program manufacturing furniture, textiles, graphics, food, metal goods, and the list continues.

Download: List of All MCE Business Units and Facilities

How MCE Acts as a Re-Entry Resource

By participating in this vocational training, inmates are equipped with soft skills such as:

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Working in a Team
  • Professionalism

 

Considering this is the first “9 to 5” job that many inmates have held, these skills are invaluable. Also, the trades our workers learn in the institution correlate to many professions in the private sector that require skilled workers and offer training that can be used for inmates seeking entrepreneurial opportunities upon release.

Despite their many obstacles, the men and women behind the scenes at MCE seamlessly run a successful manufacturing business while continuously training a new workforce and adhering to security restrictions that a private sector company could never fathom. I know that for the majority of my coworkers, “it is just part of the job,” but to so nonchalantly be part of this big picture only makes me more and more proud to call them my colleagues.

From my first day on the job, our management team has instilled that it is our duty to transform the lives of the men and women we work with, and from that first second in the institution, it is evident that my coworkers wholeheartedly embrace our mission and work so hard to better the lives of those around them.

A Testimonial of MCE’s Effectiveness in Providing Reentry Resources

Last year, we came across an article highlighting this new era where businesses across Maryland were becoming more and more willing to become second chance employers. As we read the article, we came across a familiar name of a gentleman who had been incarcerated as a teenager. While serving a sentence for attempted murder, he sought out an opportunity at the Meat Plant. He worked his way through the organization and was eventually selected to take part in a meat cutting apprenticeship program through MCE. When he was released, he was quickly hired by Whole Foods and one year later, is now working as a department manager at one of the top ten grocery chains in the world. One life, and countless more, forever changed, and a correctional industry team at a small shop in rural Maryland helped to make that all possible.

The guidance and mentorship provided by our colleagues are invaluable and I am grateful to be able to share stories like this thanks to my dedicated coworkers and the many professionals that exude a passion to enhance the lives of others. Throughout my work with MCE, I’ve received numerous phone calls from former participants thanking us for the programming – even telling me they’ve gotten jobs making more money than I do – and I’m always ecstatic to hear that.

Luckily, I also work for an organization that is a true believer in “practicing what we preach.” In only six years, I’ve seen nearly 20 former offenders restart their civilian lives working for the State of Maryland at MCE Headquarters. From there, I’ve seen many promoted internally to MCE’s Management team, move on to other positions in state agencies and the private sector, and even become members of public office.

I am honored to be part of this niche community and thank correctional industries across the country, and especially Maryland Correctional Enterprises for letting me be a part of a team that truly transforms lives

When we see the many success stories in this profession, it is impossible to deny the profound impact we continue to have on Maryland. So who is Maryland Correctional Enterprises? We are an organization dedicated to second chances and building hope for future success.

To learn more about MCE, click here

Written By: Ashley Lohr