MCE CARES. . . .

Inmate reintegration is important to keep our communities safe and secure as inmates are released back into the population each day. The transition from jail or prison to the community can be challenging not only for the offenders but also for their families and communities. From the start hundreds of graduate participants have successfully completed the MCE CARES program to move forward to succeed outside the prison walls.

MCE Continuing Allocation of Re-Entry Services (CARES) is a reintegration program for inmates nearing their release. Established in July 2008, this program is housed in the Central Maryland Correctional Facility (CMCF) located in Sykesville, MD.

Given the complexity of the challenges faced by returning offenders, a reentry program focused on a single area may not adequately address the issues faced by this population. MCE CARES believes in a holistic approach for its graduates. The mission of this program is to “Reduce the recidivism of participants by 20% when compared to the recidivism rate of the MCE release population.”

Research indicates that if properly designed and implemented, educational programs in correctional facilities can provide individuals involved in the criminal justice systems with the academic instruction, vocational training, cognitive and life skills they will need to succeed outside the walls. Inmates will confront serious challenges as they struggle to obtain employment, housing, as well as reconnecting with their families and the community once released. Supporting the reintegration of offenders back into their communities helps to pave the path of becoming a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen. Statistics indicate that the combination of education and real life job training have resulted in recidivism rates that are half that of the general Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) population.

Each participant of the CARES program receives 3 months (72 hours) of Thinking for a Change (T4C), an integrated cognitive behavior change program for offenders, helping to create change in both their thinking and behavior for a reduction in re-offending. Upon completion of T4C the participant will enter a 3 month regimen of Employment Readiness Workshop (ERW). The CARES ERW has a minimum of 50 contact hours which provides students with assessments, interviewing skills, typed self-created resume, labor market information, job searching strategies, general information and skill building in the ‘soft skills’ required in the workplace today.

CARES collaborates with many community providers to access resources for the re-entering individual. This process is intended to move participants away from the traditional definition of power as control or domination and towards a definition that allows for shared authority. This results in greater achievements than would be attained by one organization working alone. In the CARES Program each participant will have their reentry strategy tailored to them by an MCE Workforce Specialist. All CARES participants will be connected to “One Stop Career” centers in their area, as well as possible matches with employers that are looking for their particular skill set.

Engaging system stakeholders in change efforts helps eliminate barriers, increases opportunities for success, enriches the change process, educates stakeholders about MCE’s work with offenders while incarcerated, and creates a shared vision that supports systemic change efforts. (NIC/CJI) An offender's active link between in-prison services and community services may involve a mentor, case manager or steering committee.