I had the opportunity to sit down with Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education at the Department of Education (DoED) during this transitional month in Washington, D.C. On the eve of a new administration with all the focus on education reform, I was curious to know how we are planning to support the often forgotten incarcerated members of society? How are we shaping education inside prison systems to prepare for reentry into post-prison life?
Addie remarked on 2 grant programs that are running simultaneously: One, the Improved Reentry Education Program (IRE) for adults and two, the Juvenile Justice Reentry Education Program for juveniles. Both programs concentrate on helping grantees implement their training throughout the U.S. and are equally focused on both correctional and reentry education. According to Addie, education needs inside prisons are unique considering the varying levels of learning mixed with special needs.
Reentry Education is interested in improving individuals lives post-release and is focused on training that will secure employment and lessen the chance of committing a new crime. When it comes to deciding which types of technologies to use for training, Addie sites security concerns that are particular to prison systems. Facility safety is always the number one factor of those running correctional institutions, so technologies that communicate with the outside world can pose a difficulty. It’s the wardens that run the show, and they are interested in successful technologies that help inmate idleness but most of all, remain safe.
Successful certification programs such as the Vocational Village, in Michigan, show that inmates are beginning to get a leg up on preparedness with current trade skills that help secure employment. Addie warns, however, that certification needs to avoid being prison specific, as it can have the reverse effect of acting as a scarlet letter rather than being beneficial to employment.
It’s interesting how the difficulties facing the incarcerated are summed up best in the letters Addie receives on a regular basis. Inmates enthusiastically write to Addie requesting information about available training programs, but their poor writing and language skills highlight their greatest deterrent – basic education.
About Sean Addie
Sean Addie is the Director of Correctional Education for the Department of Education in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education in the U.S. Department of Education (OCTAE). His work includes sitting on the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, administering adult and juvenile reentry education grant programs, and coordinating intra-agency efforts pertaining to correctional and reentry education.
He was previously employed at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City, where he worked with the states of North Carolina and Michigan on the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project, a five-year initiative to expand access to higher education to inmates and those recently released. Sean also provided technical assistance through the Bureau of Justice Assistance-funded Expanding Access to Postsecondary Education project, designed to increase the participation of incarcerated individuals in high-quality postsecondary educational programs during and after prison. Additional responsibilities at Vera included leading the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and assisting the city of Durham, North Carolina with the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program promoting community engagement and crime reduction.
Prior to joining Vera, Sean worked at a national juvenile justice policy and research organization on several Department of Justice-funded projects examining juvenile court data, policy, and practice. He also worked on the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative in Illinois, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. Sean earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Washington and Jefferson College and holds a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is licensed to practice law in the states of New York and Pennsylvania.
More information available at OCTAE