Corrections and Inmate Workforce Education Program

Submitted By: Robert Sims; Director Correction Education
Program Contact: Dawnica Jackson, Director, Client and Customer Relations
Phone: 713-718-5835  

The Houston Community College

General Description

The Houston Community College Corrections Education Department is designed to provide career and technical education and life skills programs to eligible offenders incarcerated within Harris County. 

The program provides non-credit educational services to individuals currently incarcerated or on probation following their release. Courses offered provide individuals a pathway to return to college or gain employment. The HCC Corrections Education program was the first program at a community college in the country accredited by the Correctional Education Association. HCC’s education programs operate within the physical confines of state operated prison and residential and outpatient treatment centers. As such, all instruction is provided in a safe and secure manner.

The Correction Education Department provides Workforce training in the following major areas: 

  • Culinary
  • Auto Body Repair
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Welding Business Technology
  • Graphic Arts
  • Logistics
  • Plumbing
  • Basic Computer
  • Folk Lift Training
  • Basic Construction
  • Workplace Literacy
  • Financial Literacy

As part of expansion of the Corrections Education program, HCC has identified strategic initiatives and expanded partnerships with community leaders and industry to provide the framework and design the pathway for the former incarcerated individuals to leave jail or prison with the training and support resources necessary to be successful and not return to jail. These initiatives were constructed via intensive literature review, employee and partner feedback, as well as the current job prospectus for individuals with felony convictions. These goals and strategies serve as the foundation for the improvement of current department obstacles and the implementation of new programs and streamlined policies to improve curriculum delivery and the transition from the jail system to society.

This plan is the framework for transforming the corrections education department into a leader in corrections education curriculum and delivery of instruction. Finding gainful employment is key to reducing the recidivism rate and industry needs-based programming is essential to training students with skills that have real world job application. The Corrections Education department is committed to developing partnerships throughout local industry and transition organizations in our communities to foster working relationships that lead to gainful employee for our students and a decrease in recidivism. 

We recognize the importance of the role of the community, industry, and the offender in a successful criminal justice system. Houston Community College has been providing corrections education since 1973 with the following outcomes.

  • 6,351 inmate-students served in 2018-19
  • 14,300 probationers identified for training
  • 1,166 Certificates of Completion awarded in 2018
  • 75,000 students trained since the department’s inception
  • 87,500 hours of training completed
  • Participants average 25 hours of training weekly
  • $2,533,272 in revenue generated in 2018-2019  

The Corrections Education Department has been received the following recognition: 

  • The Legacy Award in 2004
  • 100% Corrections Education Association (CEA) Accreditation pass rate
  • First Community College in the Country accredited by the CEA
  • Largest Community College Corrections Education program
  • Finalist LERN International Community Service Award 

Over the past 40 years, the U.S. incarceration rate has more than quadrupled. This translates into more than 2.3 million Americans incarcerated each year, with Texas leading the nation in the number of prisoners, with 251,000 persons behind bars and an estimated cost to taxpayers of $3.2 billion dollars each year. In addition, the National Institute of Justice reports that over 75% of released inmates are re-incarcerated within five years of their discharge from prison. While there are many theories as to why people end up incarcerated or re-incarcerated, the data is clear—a high correlation exists been incarceration and education attained by an incarcerated person and his or her recidivism rate.

The vast majority of people in U.S. prisons do not have a high school diploma. Studies conducted over the last two decades almost unanimously indicate that higher education in prison programs reduces recidivism and translates into reductions in crime, savings to taxpayers, and long-term contributions to the safety and well-being of the communities to which formerly incarcerated people return. Faced with this multifaceted challenge, Houston Community College (HCC), partnered with The Harris County Sheriff’s Office in 1973 to offer Correctional Education courses. HCC’s Corrections Education Department is designed to provide career and technical education and life skills programs to eligible offenders within the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Probation, and the Texas State Jail. The program provides non-credit educational services to incarcerated or probationary individuals. Courses offered provide individuals a pathway to return to college or gain employment once released. The HCC program was the first community college in the country accredited by the Correctional Education Association in 2004.

Teaching inside a correctional setting brings many challenges, one of which is what educational tools can be brought into a jail setting. The primary teaching tools we are currently allowed to use are computers, videos, and textbooks. In the vocational classes, teaching equipment is expanded to include equipment necessary for students to obtain the hands-on learning experience necessary to master a skill.

By using data analytics and industry demand to drive our initiatives HCC is reshaping education in a correctional facility. No longer simply offering courses inside the jail. HCC has expanded its course offerings to formerly incarcerated individuals who are on probation in Harris County. HCC’s education model uses data and research models to improve the lives of student/inmates nor penalize them for past mistakes. This strategy is not only improving the lives of student/inmates, but making the community safer and saving tax payers money. Over the tenure of the corrections education program, has saved Harris County tax payers more than $337,500. Programs offered in the correction workforce education program are in response to the Houston-Galveston Area workforce economic need. Each program is aligned to and in response to high growth, high wage, and high demand occupational skill areas.

Corrections offers continuing education courses that lead to program certifications and certificates of completion. (Please note some areas have been newly expanded.) 

  • Culinary - Level 1 Prep Cook/Chef 1 and Safe Serve
  • Auto Body Repair
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Welding Technician I
  • Business Technology (Microsoft Office Specialist)
  • Graphic Arts (Adobe Photoshop and InDesign)
  • Logistics (MSSC CLA, CLT, OSHA 10, and Forklift)
  • Plumbing
  • Information Technology (CompTIA A+)
  • Folk Lift Training
  • Basic Construction (NCCER Core, Roofing, Carpentry, Solar)
  • Workplace Literacy
  • Personal Financial Literacy
  • Cognitive Behavior
  • Tailoring
  • OSHA 10
  • HVAC Technician I
  • Industrial Scaffolding
  • Workplace Professional Preparation
  • Conflict Mediation