BEAM: New Re-Entry Program for Formerly Incarcerated Women
Vermont Works for Women (VWW) is creating a pathway from incarceration to employment for women in a three-year community-based pilot program. The program, called BEAM: Building Employment and Meaning, offers eligible participants stable housing, immediate employment, and wrap around support from a VWW re-entry services program manager.
“VWW is excited for the opportunity to expand and enhance the community based re-entry supports our organization has been providing for decades,” said Rhoni Basden, Executive Director of Vermont Works for Women. “Through this pilot, we hope to build supported pathways that provide necessary steps to success for women leaving incarceration and create connection to employer partners ready to positively engage.”
The BEAM program’s first employer partner is Middlebury College. The program is the first of its kind outside the justice system in Vermont and is mutually beneficial to the participants, for whom employment is a major success factor and contributor to reduced recidivism, and to Middlebury, which like many employers in Vermont has contended with staffing shortages and faced challenges in filling positions.
The BEAM pilot is funded through a $300,000 grant for re-entry services from the Vermont Department of Corrections, allocated through Act 183 last session. Additionally, the Middlebury Provost’s fund made an initial investment of $50,000 toward the design and administration of the pilot program, which primarily supports housing for the participants, identified as one of the biggest barriers to stability and long-term employment success.
“The Department is grateful to partner with Vermont Works for Women to provide justice-involved women with a pathway to successful re-entry” said Nicholas J. Deml, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. “As we work to create innovative vocational training programs in our facilities, the BEAM Program serves as a critical touchstone in fostering collaboration with employers across the State and cultivating meaningful opportunities for incarcerated individuals in Vermont.”
Securing steady employment and housing are among the biggest challenges for those making this transition. Program participants will move into a house provided by VWW in Middlebury upon their release from Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF) and Middlebury College will hire them as regular employees of Dining Services. The BEAM program, and VWW’s other justice services programs, are led by directly impacted women, who lend lived experience as well as professional experience to create a unique program that is gender-responsive, trauma-informed, and attuned to the particular needs of justice-involved women.
BEAM’s Middlebury program launched at the start of 2023 with its first participants. The Middlebury pilot program can support up to four individuals at a time, and will accept new participants on a rolling basis. In order to be eligible for BEAM, individuals must be self-motivated and committed to recovery and employment. VWW is responsible for screening potential participants and supporting them in their journey to successfully reintegrate back into the community.
VWW has been a contracted service provider with the Department of Corrections for decades, providing vocational training and soft-skills development. However, continuity of these services outside of the facility has not been consistently funded, leaving a gap in gender-responsive supportive employment services.
The concept for BEAM developed from ongoing conversations with Caitlin Goss, Middlebury College’s vice president for human resources and chief people officer and a member of the Vermont Works for Women Board of Directors, who had collaborated with VWW for years to build an inclusive hiring model through her previous employer, Rhino Foods. Goss explains, “Middlebury College is thrilled to be the first employer partner for this innovative pilot program and welcomes the opportunity to develop a supportive and sustainable inclusive hiring model. This work is aligned with our commitment to engage with our community, welcome new employees to campus and actively dismantle structural barriers for employment that exist in our society. We look forward to developing and growing this model with Vermont Works for Women and other statewide stakeholders.”
The long-term goal of BEAM is to create a network of employers in Vermont that are committed to inclusive hiring practices that support the success and well-being of justice involved individuals and invested in supporting program participants to overcome systemic barriers. Over the course of the three-year pilot, VWW will create employer best practices resources, as well as build a pipeline where women can learn hard and soft skills in-facility, and be directly connected to employers with wraparound supports upon reintegration.
Agencies and community organizations that are interested in partnering with VWW on this program should contact Director of Impact Alison Lamagna at email@example.com.