Explores key challenges of the implementation of secure internet access for jail-based American Job Centers under the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-release grants, such as restrictive internet security, limited bandwidth, and the complexity of internet installation in jails

“This issue brief…explores lessons from the planning phase of the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-release (LEAP) grants. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, LEAP pilots the creation of jail-based American Job Centers (AJCs) to support the successful reentry of participants and directly link them to community-based AJCs upon release” (p.1).    

“Securing Internet access is a critical planning issue for the creation of a jail-based…AJC…Community-based AJCs increasingly offer resources via the Internet, as the majority of job search activities and applications now occur online; however, correctional facilities often do not offer any Internet access for inmates due to security concerns. In jails where Internet access is available, it is generally for purposes unrelated to job search, such as legal research and distance learning, and in designated areas such as a law library or classroom. Arranging Internet access for the purpose of job search inside a jail-based AJC therefore represents a new and complex endeavor in the jail environment. ”(p.1).  

“This brief uses data from site visits to 8 of the 20…LEAP…sites to explore the role of Internet access in pre-release employment services as well as the resources, staffing, and infrastructure needed to establish Internet access for a jail-based AJC” (p.1).  

“The jail-based AJCs established by LEAP grantees planned to use the Internet for pre-release job search instruction, online basic skills and career interest assessments, and, in some cases, occupational skills training. Half of the jail-based AJCs were also offering or planned to offer formal computer and Internet skills instruction. As grantees discovered, however, Internet security settings inside jails often preclude access to multimedia and private business sites” (p.1).

Note that this issue brief is one in a series of five briefs that explore lessons from the early stages of LEAP.

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The brief reports a number of key findings and grantee strategies to address challenges • “Given heightened Internet security restrictions in jails, jail-based AJCs had to be flexible to adapt their pre-release curricula for this environment” (p.1). “Due to restrictions on access to employer websites [and]…Internet security settings and bandwidth limitations,” (p.1) AJCs made these modifications: o Shifted pre-release job applications from online to paper format or Word versions and “planned to provide post-release instruction on the online component of the process” (p.1). o Shifted job search activities “to exploring local labor market trends and aggregated job search sites such as Monster and Indeed” (p.1). o AJCs that could not offer training videos or interactive media, modified curricula, delayed certain career services to post-release, and/or invested in additional equipment (p.1). o Maintained hard copies of data or case notes if they “were not able to enter data or review Internet-based case management notes” (p.2). • “Planning for Internet installation soon after grant award was critical, given the inherent delays and complexity of establishing Internet access in previously unwired jail settings” (p.1). Grantees reported the following factors helped navigate this challenge: o “Securing buy-in from jail administrators at the proposal stage minimized the need for continued discussions (after grant award) about whether to allow Internet access in the jail, and enabled grantees to focus on installation details. Three grantees also noted that support of an entity with oversight over both jails and [Workforce Investment Boards], such as a county executive, helped expedite Internet installation” (p.3). • “Adequate budgeting for both equipment purchases and space upgrades was essential to support Internet installation and access in jails” (p.1). Grantees reported the following factors helped navigate this challenge: o “Grantees stressed the importance of developing a detailed plan for Internet access in collaboration with jail leaders and for jail IT staff to review that plan as early as possible, even at the proposal stage. This could help to anticipate time-intensive processes and potential infrastructure costs. They also suggested that early identification of the websites necessary for planned prerelease programming was important for timely review and approval by jail leadership and IT staff” (p.3). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)