Benchmarks of Success Issue 45, April 2023: Recognizing National Second Chance Month

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Monthly Newsletter  -  Issue 45,  April 2023



April was National Second Chance Month

According to the Prison Policy Initiative’s state profile, more than 36,000 Marylanders are incarcerated in federal, state, or local jails or youth facilities. Another 80,000 beyond this are either on probation or parole. When returning citizens are released back into their communities, they carry with them a criminal record that creates significant barriers to employment, economic stability, and successful reentry into society. Numerous legal and regulatory restrictions prevent them from accessing employment, housing, voting, education, business licensing, and other basic opportunities. Nearly 75% of people who were formerly incarcerated are still unemployed a year after being released as a result.

This April marked the second year that the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs led the celebration of “Second Chance Month” to acknowledge the contributions of the individuals, communities, and agencies across the country that work to support the safe and successful reentry of millions of people returning from incarceration each year. 

With this in mind, we salute the professional staff throughout Maryland’s workforce system who work hard every day to connect justice involved individuals with the supportive services, housing assistance, and employment guidance that will help them begin positive new chapters in their lives. 

Read the proclamation.

Visit the National Reentry Resource Center to learn more.



April Staff Shout Out - Helping Incarcerated Individuals Begin New Lives as Returning Citizens   

As the lead for academic services within Maryland’s Correctional Education (CE) program, Academic Coordinator Patrick Hruz witnesses the negative impacts of low literacy levels on incarcerated individuals first-hand. “Our numbers are somewhat fluid, but in general about 80% of the inmates we test using the Test of Adult Basic Education score at less than a 6th grade level. Low literacy levels and educational attainment are not only linked with increased incarceration rates, but also contribute to higher rates of recidivism.”

To disrupt the cycle, Maryland law mandates that all inmates take education classes if they do not have a high school diploma, have at least 18 months remaining on their sentence, and if they are not exempt due to a medical, developmental, or learning disability. The CE program, which is housed within the Maryland Department of Labor (MD Labor) as part of the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning, oversees CE’s academic program as well as occupational training, special education, and transition services for over 5,000 inmates annually.

Patrick and the CE team ensure that qualifying inmates who do not already have a high school credential are enrolled in academic classes to prepare them for the GED® tests they must pass to earn their Maryland high school diplomas. He is understandably proud of CE's 85% pass rate for the GED® test, as compared with a national pass rate of 76%.

Reflecting on his work, Patrick says, “We look at the good and celebrate the changes we can help people make in their lives. It is truly gratifying to help someone live up to their personal potential.”


Quick Resources

Benchmarks of Success Resource Page

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Resource Page

Maryland’s State Workforce Plan



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Success Story - Two Returning Citizens Launch New Careers with the Help from the Maryland Reentry Initiative





L to R: Mr. Mitchell (Case Manager); Mr. Foskey (Intern); Mr. Hotten (Intern); Ms. Redding (Reentry Navigator); Mr. Schwartz (President and Founder); Mr. Wayne (Auto Repair & Training Center Lead Instructor)




Mr. Hotten was discouraged. In spring of 2022 he had completed an 18-month sentence and home detention, and he was anxious to move forward in building a better future for himself. The first order of business was finding a job, but none of the many applications he submitted were considered because of his criminal record. Several months of unsuccessful job searching passed before Mr. Hotten learned about the Maryland Department of Labor’s Reentry Initiative program in January of 2023. When Reentry Navigator Tawanda Redding reached out to Mr. Hotten by phone, she encouraged him to register in Maryland’s state job bank, the Maryland Workforce Exchange (MWE). His negative response to the suggestion was a tip to Ms. Redding that he might need additional support to complete the online registration process. She invited him to meet with her in person the next day at the local library, where they could work together to enter his information in MWE.

Ms. Redding was on the way to the library appointment with Mr. Hotten when she spoke by phone to Mr. Foskey for the first time. Like Mr. Hotten, Mr. Foskey was facing employment barriers related to his criminal record. He had just been released from incarceration at the Eastern Correctional Institution after completing a three-and-a-half year sentence. Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist Cherice Johnson referred him to the Reentry Initiative for employment assistance. Since the library seemed to be a convenient location for Mr. Foskey, Ms. Redding invited him to join the meeting she was about to hold with Mr. Hotten to learn more about the services the Reentry Initiative could offer.

She was pleasantly surprised to find both gentlemen already waiting at the library when she arrived. After getting Mr. Hotten registered for MWE, she ran a Re-entry Workshop for the two men. Both expressed interest in participating in the Vehicles for Change Full Circle Auto Repair and Training Center program, which is designed to provide mechanic training to people with various employment obstacles, including justice involvement. Ms. Stanley assisted the gentlemen in completing the Vehicle for Change application process, and connected them with the program’s director.

The turnaround was fast! Mr. Hotten and Mr. Foskey were both accepted into the program by the end of January. According to Shawna Kearsley, Delmarva Program Director for Vehicles for Change, they are distinguishing themselves as high performers. Only four months into the program, they passed two of the three required Automotive Service Excellence certifications.

Their journey to employment continues to look bright. As of this writing, Mr. Hotten is working through the hiring process for a position with the State Highway Administration. Mr. Foskey is considering a role with Vehicles for Change as an assistant instructor.

For his part, Mr. Hotten feels that finding the Reentry Initiative and the Vehicles for Change opportunity transformed him from feeling hopeless to being in control of his future. He never imagined that he would have an opportunity to not only find a job, but an actual career. Mr. Foskey feels that he has finally been given a second chance to be the positive contributor to society he always knew he could be.

Seeing the positive and enduring impact their services have in the lives of people like Mr. Hotten and Mr. Foskey makes all of the effort worthwhile for Ms. Redding and Ms. Johnson. They gain great satisfaction from watching their customers overcome challenges to build new careers. This is a true testament to the power of Maryland’s workforce system to change lives.

new americans corner  

New Americans Corner

Looking to brush up on your cultural knowledge? Are you seeing an influx of customers from a specific country? "Cultural backgrounders" may be a helpful resource for you to get to know more about these individuals and support you in your service delivery. Check out these cultural backgrounders from Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) and Switchboard


Workforce Partners

Maryland Department of Labor                                                                  Maryland Department of Human Services

Maryland State Department of Education                                                Governor's Workforce Development Board

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development                            Maryland Workforce Association

Did You Know...?

Maryland's Latest Workforce Development Updates                                                                                                                           

  • Innovative Initiative Brings State Testing Vendor Inside State Facilities for Licensure Examination -

    The Office of Correctional Education (CE) within DWDAL at MD Labor recently added an exciting new service to their programming. CE’s roster of 25 occupational programs all prepare participating students to earn industry-recognized credentials. In an initiative that is the first of its kind in the state, Maryland’s contracted testing vendor is now able to enter the Roxbury Correctional Institute to proctor a professional licensure examination for the Barber Stylist program currently operating in that facility. Access to the licensure examination behind the fence puts returning citizens one more step ahead in their planning for the post-release employment that is so essential to making a successful transition.

    CE’s Occupational Coordinator, Dr. Tamara Barron, led the effort to introduce the new access to licensure examinations. Dr. Barron noted that a unified vision and the sustained efforts of many people made this accomplishment possible. “There were a lot of working parts. In addition to unwavering support from DWDAL leadership, the Maryland Board of Barbers was incredibly supportive in helping us develop a modified exam that conformed to facility constraints. The Maryland State Board of Education, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and the instructional staff in the classrooms were all critical to the ultimate success of this initiative.

    Deputy Assistant Secretary Erin Roth thanked Dr. Barron for all she has done to create and expand the new Barber Stylist Training Program. “New opportunities like these do not happen for our students without the efforts of a committed team working with passion and persistence.”

    A similar initiative is currently under development for the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women.

  • New Incentive for Hiring Returning Citizens - Registered Apprenticeship for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Pilot Program - 

    The Registered Apprenticeship for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Pilot Program was created to:

    • Develop a well-trained, productive construction workforce which meets the needs of the State’s economy;
    • Encourage employers to hire formerly incarcerated individuals in the construction industry; and
    • Help employers offset additional costs, if any, associated with hiring Registered Apprentices.

    The pilot program will distribute grants to Registered Apprenticeship Sponsors and employers to offset the cost of registering new apprentices by granting a maximum of $1,000 per new eligible Registered Apprentice, until program funds are exhausted. Eligible Registered Apprenticeship Sponsors and employers may receive up to $25,000 per year.

  • Maryland's Reentry Initiative - 

    Do you serve customers with justice involvement? If you do, then you are aware of the many hurdles returning citizens face when trying to find stable employment. An analysis conducted by the Prison Policy Initiative indicates that formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of over 27% — higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression.

    The Maryland Reentry Initiative seeks to assist Maryland’s returning citizens in overcoming employment challenges. The program supports a team of Re-entry Navigators stationed in American Job Centers (AJCs) across the state. These employment specialists work to connect justice-involved job seekers with businesses. For example, they meet with pre-release individuals in State correctional facilities to learn how they can be of use in connecting to employment and training opportunities. They also meet with customers after release, to help ease the difficulty of becoming re-employed. The reentry navigator team works continually to establish a network of employer contacts who are interested in hiring their clients.

  • The New Start Act Brings New Employment Resources for Returning Citizens

    In 2022, the Maryland General Assembly enacted The Maryland New Start Act, which establishes the New Start Grant and Microloan Programs. The purpose of these two programs is to provide entrepreneurship development opportunities through training, programming, and direct access to small business financing. The New Start Grant Program, administered by Maryland Department of Labor (MD Labor), provides grants to organizations to create or support entrepreneurship development programs. 

    The grant program will run from Fiscal Years 2024 through 2028, allocating at least $200,000 of State funds annually for MD Labor to administer and disburse awards. Eligible organizations may seek funding under a competitive solicitation process of up to $60,000 per year to support a new or existing entrepreneurship program.

    The microloan program runs on the same timetable, and will allocate at least $300,000 of State funds annually for MD Commerce to administer and originate New Start Microloans. MD Commerce administers the Program in consultation with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs.
  • Maryland Association for Adult, Community & Continuing Education (MAACCE) 2023 Conference - 

    MAACCE 2023 is right around the corner! The conference is scheduled for Thursday, May 11 from 9am - 8pm. The event will be held at the Holiday Inn Washington-College Park, 10000 Baltimore Avenue, College Park, MD 20740. Tickets for the conference are available here.

    MAACCE is a non-profit organization providing leadership in Maryland for those interested in advancing education as a lifelong process. MAACCE provides a central forum for a wide variety of adult, community and continuing education groups. The organization’s annual conference convenes adult educators, learners, and support staff from across the state of Maryland, to discuss best practices learned in the field of adult education. MAACCE encourages organizations and agencies in Maryland to cooperate in a broad spectrum of educational programs and activities in support of the lifelong learning concept.


Benchmarks of Success Newsletters

  • For all previous newsletter issues, click here.


Benchmarks of Success Committee Updates

Committee Chairs welcome questions from newsletter readers regarding the work in which their groups are involved! To be connected with a committee's leadership team, feel free to contact the Communications Committee at

All committees are currently meeting virtually.

  • The Executive Steering Committee is composed of the agency leaders of the partner agencies who meet periodically to provide the WIOA Alignment Group with high-level guidance. You can learn more about the Executive Steering Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The WIOA Alignment Group is composed of the department and division-level leaders of partner agencies who meet on a monthly basis to collaboratively address issues, plan joint efforts, make recommendations to the Executive Steering Committee, and manage and guide the activities of the Benchmarks of Success committees. The WIOA Alignment Group typically meets on the last Monday of each month. The most recent meeting was held on March 27, 2023. The next meeting is scheduled for May 30, 2023. You can learn more about the WIOA Alignment Group’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Data and Dashboard Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in program-based performance requirements and data collection methodologies and tools. The Committee meets on a quarterly basis to develop a consistent, sustainable system all workforce partners can use to measure, analyze, display, and apply Benchmarks data to continuously improve the quality and effectiveness of services. The Committee held its most recent meeting on February 14, 2023. The group's next meeting is scheduled for May 9, 2023. You can learn more about the Data and Dashboard Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Communications Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in programs and communications methods and tools. The Committee meets on a monthly basis to foster the integration of Maryland’s workforce system by broadly promoting the activities of the Benchmarks of Success committees and the services and resources of partner agencies and programs. The Benchmarks of Success newsletter is the committee's main deliverable. The newsletter serves as a central forum targeting frontline service providers, where partners can share information on important developments that impact the system. The Committee held its most recent meeting on April 13, 2023. The group's next meeting is scheduled for May 11, 2023. You can learn more about the Communications Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Policy Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in workforce system policy issues. The Committee meets on a monthly basis to research policy issues and produces an annual Policy Recommendations Report. The recommendations included in the Report help to guide system priorities and initiatives. The next meeting of the Committee is to be determined. You can learn more about the Policy Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee works to advance a unified professional development program that helps all partner programs maximize access to and use of skills and credentialing and life management skills, eliminate barriers to employment through the use of supportive services, and strengthen and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the workforce system. The Committee typically meets on the third Wednesday of each month. The group held its most recent meeting on April 19, 2023 and has the next meeting scheduled for June 21, 2023. You can learn more about the Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee’s activities here.


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