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Executive Order Prompts BOP to Expand Prison Apprenticeship Programs

by Dale Chappell

An executive order issued by President Donald Trump has prompted the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to develop “National Standards of Apprenticeship” to expand apprenticeship programs for federal prisoners, according to an April 10, 2018 post on the BOP’s website.

While the federal prison system has always offered some apprenticeship programs, adoption of the new standards to expand such programs within the BOP will give prisoners industry-recognized certification they can take with them to the job market on the outside. This, the BOP said, will help them “secure meaningful employment following release.”

The push to increase apprenticeship programs began in 2014 when President Barack Obama established a goal to double the number of apprenticeships within five years. In 2016, more than 200,000 people participated in Registered Apprenticeship programs nationwide, with around 16,000 of those being incarcerated. 

While most prison work programs fail to provide prisoners with transferable skills they can use once they get out, apprenticeships offer more meaningful job training. Given how successful apprenticeships have been for participants in general, they may help prisoners in a more realistic way than existing prison work and vocational programs. 

Apprenticeship programs typically consist of 2,000 hours of on-the-job training under the supervision of an experienced worker, plus classroom instruction. Upon completion, the apprentice graduate is issued a nationally recognized credential from the DOL. Graduates have a 91 percent employment rate with an average starting salary of $50,000 per year. 

In addition to the DOL certificate, most apprenticeship programs provide prisoners with industry-specific certificates they can take with them when they are released, further increasing their chances for stable employment.

Joblessness is a major factor that contributes to recidivism. A study by the Manhattan Institute found there is a 20 percent reduction in recidivism rates when an ex-prisoner obtains meaningful post-release employment. Thus, the expanded apprenticeship programs in the BOP will hopefully result in less recidivism among federal prisoners. 



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