Incarcerated women come from multiple disadvantaged intersecting demographics: they are women, disproportionately Native Hawaiian, low income, from rural communities, and will face the stigma of incarceration upon release.
Despite living in an era of digital proliferation, incarcerated women return to their communities underprepared for 21st century jobs that demand essential digital literacy and computer skills.
Providing a comprehensive curriculum of essential office skills primes incarcerated learners for entry into otherwise unreachable, higher-paying careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an entry-level data clerk in Hawaiʻi can earn a median wage ranging from $16.33 to $20.09 per hour–a 30%-60% increase over Hawaiʻi’s minimum wage.
In addition to Microsoft Office, WorkNet provides training specific to the employment challenges ex-offenders face when they reenter the community, including digital job search skills, interviewing with a criminal background, a professional resume, and rights of offenders.
During our pilot program classes were held online for inmates of WCCC as they were much easier logistically and allowed the program to continue during COVID lockdowns.
Cohort 1 started with 12 women, 8 of whom completed the program. However, the women who dropped were fully engaged throughout, attending classes and completing their assignments. Attrition stemmed from another job opportunity, parole, lockdowns, and social dynamics in the group. In future we plan to add Microsoft Office and Outlook, areas the women expressed interest in, in addition to Microsoft Excel.
- Women unfamiliar with computers built their competency and confidence.
- Many of the students supported each other’s learning where they could.
They gained important skills to speak about themselves and their experiences.
- Every week women, not in the program, asked if and how they could join.
- Women showed up to study halls to ask questions or even more assignments.