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2019 Government Innovation Awards

Improving outcomes for offenders

To ensure that the vocational training that the Indiana Department of Correction had long been providing to inmates maximizes their job potential after release, a team developed the Occupational Optimization Model. It uses statistical, data mining and reporting software to help match soon-to-be-released offenders with job opportunities.

Indiana Department of Correction Occupational Optimization Model

Indiana Department of Correction

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Using data from the Department of Workforce Development — along with education, geographic and corrections information from multiple state agencies — the model provides a dashboard view of job opportunities filtered by educational requirements, location and pay to show where an offender might find the best employment and wages. Data is presented in several visual formats, such as histograms, pie charts and heat maps. As a user re-sorts the data, the visualizations shift in real time.

The system weights the vocations based on where offenders will live on release, their level of education, the job’s accessibility via public transportation and the potential to earn a living wage. The result is twofold: The model gives corrections officials a high-level look at the vocational training available in the state, where gaps exist and how to address them, and then enables staff to find the most advantageous vocational program for individual offenders while they’re incarcerated. Additionally, parole officers can use the model to determine the best options for released offenders.

“We have always provided vocational training, but…we want to make sure that they have exactly the skills,” said Sarah Schelle, the department’s executive director of legislation and data science. “In the past, we’ve worked on soft skills or not necessarily vocational framing. With the increase in that area, we wanted to make sure we were providing what was actually needed.”

Still in the testing phase, the model will be ready for full use in the next six months at the state’s 18 facilities and 10 parole districts, Schelle said.

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