Michigan Corrections Expands New Apprenticeship System Statewide
The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) is expansion the learning management system he first piloted in 2021 to help ensure offenders have access to educational programs while incarcerated.
Following the results of a competitive proof of concept using the Google Workspace for Education platform in three prisons – a collaboration with Resultant and Google – the department decided to expand the initiative statewide. The program is currently rolling out and will be functional at all remediation sites in the state in 2022, said Kyle Kaminski, administrator of MDOC Offender Success.
The MDOC operates schools at each of its correctional facilities across the state, and things like educational programs and communications need to be operational on a daily basis, Kaminski explained.
Part of the driving force for exploring new technologies has been the decline of MDOC’s old Prisoner Program Information Network (PPIN) system, which sometimes went down for several days at a time. Kaminski said the partnership with Google and Resultant has led to a system with nearly 100% uptime.
The functionality of the MDOC Education Network was also limited in the programs it could support, as testing for accrediting agencies increasingly moved online. Additionally, it did not provide a digital environment for students and instructors to interact.
While this expanded learning management system will complement the in-person educational programs offered by MDOC, Google Classroom technology will allow instructors to provide virtual instruction, give assignments and quizzes, and communicate with their classes.
The department used state legislature funds allocated for prisoner education to implement this.
The main finding determining the success of the program is that it is gaining more adoption and that the department is providing more training than before, explained Resultant President John Roach.
Digital delivery allows for very detailed information on things like who took a course, how long it took them to complete and how they passed the assessment, he added.
And while Roach acknowledged that states already collect recidivism data — defined by criminal acts that result in re-arrest, re-conviction, or return to prison within three years — Resultant helped MDOC use data to compare changes in the likelihood of recidivism when a person receives an education and training while incarcerated.
Kaminski also highlighted the outcome of soft skills training for tech literacy, as he explained that it is difficult for returning citizens to make the transition from an environment with limited access to technology to a society technology-based, where everything from forms to job applications is online. .
“We think that’s also one of the results that’s going to be really important; it will give inmates more regular contact with technology,” he said. “It will get them used to the idea of communicating using technology.”
And while Kaminski thinks working with Google and Chromebooks was a direction the department was already moving in, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that adoption and pushed the discussion around increasing investments in Wi-Fi to potentially expand this program into what he called “phase two”. ”
The department has requested $30 million from the state legislature to install secure Wi-Fi in all state correctional facilities as a separate initiative. He pointed out that this would allow the deployment of Chromebooks outside of MDOC schools.
Roach said the team implemented “role-based security” to determine exactly what offenders were and were not able to access. For example, Kaminski explained that because offenders could not have unlimited access to the Internet, the department was able to list certain websites, such as specific links for educational things and tests.
Additionally, the department had to circumvent the Google Platform’s collaboration feature to control the flow of information within state prisons. Kaminski said when this need was communicated to the Google team, the company was able to easily disable this feature or limit access as needed.
Starting with the competitive proof of concept, he said, gave the department the confidence to know what can be administratively controlled. Also, since Chromebooks use cloud storage rather than desktop storage, files can be easily searched and managed.