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Prison to Workforce Programme – Career Pathways for Incarcerated Women

Kellie Walenciak - Televerde

The United Kingdom continues to take steps to decrease imprisonment through alternatives like electronic monitoring, community service, home arrest and treatments. And it appears to be working.

According to the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics, between 2016-2018, the probation population increased from 1,540,578 to 1,723,652. At the same time, the overall imprisonment rate in Europe fell to 102.5 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018.

Part of reducing mass incarceration also includes increasing focus on designing innovative rehabilitation programs that prepare individuals who are incarcerated for transition back into society whilst lowering the risk of recidivism. For this, countries might want to borrow a page out of a playbook currently being used in the United States by a for-profit company, Televerde.

Televerde is a sales and marketing services company that specializes in inside sales and demand generation. They partner with brands that many will recognize: SAP, Adobe-Marketo, GE and Microsoft, delivering more than $8 billion in revenue since their inception in 1995.

The company staffs a 650+ global workforce with offices in Phoenix, Arizona; Madison and Rockville Indiana; Glasgow, Scotland; and Cordoba, Argentina. They operate 10 outbound engagement centers, seven of which are staffed entirely by females incarcerated inside three U.S. prison facilities.

To date, more than 3,500 women have been through their program but until recently the company has struggled to quantify its impact.

A study released by the Arizona State University Seidman Research Institute has validated the social and economic impact of Televerde’s prison workforce development program on individuals, families and the state of Arizona.

What it shows is a recidivism rate that is 91 percent lower than the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ national rate among females released from state prisons. Further, the report states that 94 percent of Televerde graduates are still employed after five years post-incarceration, earning four times the salary of other formally incarcerated females who did not go through the program.

The impact on families is also significant as 70% of the graduates report improved relationships with their children, partners/spouses, and other family members as a result of their education and training. Additionally, their dependent children are 11 times more likely to graduate high school and 11 times less likely to be incarcerated.

There is also economic impact not just in reduced recidivism but also in the costs associated with social services and entitlement programs, coupled with the fact that participants are able to contribute to the cost of living while incarcerated (room, board, child support, etc.), which alleviates the financial burden placed on taxpayers. With the increase in high-skilled employment, monies from taxes together with impact on GDP are garnered by the state.

“Our model works because we lead with empathy. We don’t define anyone by the worst mistake they made of worst day of their lives,” said Morag Lucey, CEO of Televerde. “We believe in second chances and provide women with real business opportunities that allow them to reach their highest potential.”

According to Lucey, Televerde places equal value on teaching hard and soft skills, which includes certification in sought-after marketing technologies. This combination of learning enables women to gain professional experience in prison while building their careers and networks through their partnerships with client sales and marketing teams.

“Perhaps most important,” said Lucey, “is that our ladies begin to feel—some for the very first time—financial and emotional independence, which contributes greatly to their rehabilitation and prepares them for a successful transition back into their communities.”

Many Televerde program graduates are hired directly by clients as they are released, filling top sales and marketing positions and technical roles. At Televerde headquarters in Phoenix, 40 percent of the workforce began their careers behind bars. They represent every department and every level of the organization, including the c-suite.

The company also launched a non-profit organization in 2011, Arouet Foundation, to provide career readiness training, job placement, mentoring, and other support services to help reduce the risk of recidivism as women reenter society.

Lucey believes that given today’s human capital crisis, embracing qualified individuals with a criminal background can help companies combat the growing talent shortage and skills gap. “Broadening the lens we use to find talent will not only help women and men start their climb up the corporate ladder, it will also build the next-gen workforce and enable companies to flourish.”

The mission is to provide 10,000 life-changing opportunities over the next decade, which means the company is positioning itself for hyper-growth, with plans to grow in the U.K. in the second half of this year.

“We will expand our operations into the U.K. prison system, which will allow us to serve even more clients, whilst accelerating social and economic mobility for U.K.’s unempowered populations.”

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