Argo

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Argo is a three-part platform that aids young incarcerated individuals in the job search and reintegration into the world. This community is especially in need of these services because they are uniquely disadvantaged when they are released. Nearly 90% “have been excluded from education,” while 53% are “not in education, employment or training” (Spark Inside). Because these individuals lack good alternative options, they are re-arrested at alarming rates. According to one of the most comprehensive studies of recidivism rates in the U.S., “within 5 years of release, 84.1% of inmates who were age 24 or younger at release were arrested, compared to 78.6% of inmates ages 25 to 39 and 69.2% of those age 40 or older” (U.S. Department of Justice).

Through fostering a close knit community of individuals undergoing similar journeys, Argo aims to encourage people by showing them that such a journey from incarceration to employed is not an insurmountable task while giving them the necessary skills to find work in a competitive job market. Mentorship is a key part of the Argo program. It’s built with an understanding that finding work is also a personal philosophical journey as well as a logistical challenge.

The first part is a three day bootcamp with three primary foci. The first is deals with mental health and motivation. The second offers professional training such as help looking for a job, applying for a job, dressing for the job, etc. The third component is the introduction to their small support group for their post-prison life. Similar to AA, the group will hold regular meetings that provide an easy way to find peer support and help keep each other on track. Before release, the individual will meet three times with their mentor and will receive one-on-one help in preparing for his or her new life, both mentally and professionally.

The second part of the program is focused on professional training and work hunting. The core of this phase are weekly, in-person meetings, with their support group and check-ins with their mentors. In addition, they can choose to attend additional professional training workshops. The workshops cover a new topic each month, and if they complete all four workshops in any given month, then they can receive an official certificate of completion. This phase is completed once the individual has found regular work, though he or she is encouraged to continue attending group meetings to support their peers.

The last part of the program is focused on giving back and mentoring new Argo program individuals. Argo encourages those individuals who get to this point to connect with new participants as mentors and/or to give presentations about their paths to success. Becoming an Argo mentor is a fulfilling experience that ensures the longevity of the program and is also an impressive story to tell to future employers.

How it will support sustained motivation: One of the issues with this population is that often they doubt themselves and their ability to succeed. Argo’s platform aims to move them from low motivation and perceived low ability to high motivation and high ability (as on B.J. Fogg’s diagram of ability versus motivation). First, the mentors and peer groups help inspire participants to reach for professional success, and the peer pressure will encourage them to stay involved. Second, the professional training workshops offer opportunities to develop useful skills that may be beneficial in the job market. Because they are relatively short and manageable, they will not seem insurmountable. For individuals who don’t have an impressive resume, the possibility of earning certificates in workshops and mentorship will also help sustain motivation because they likely do not have these options elsewhere.

Sources:

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34287.pdf

https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rprts05p0510.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/opinion/a-college-education-for-prisoners.html

http://www.sparkinside.org/

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/education/edlife/from-prison-to-college.html

http://www.nyc.gov/html/ceo/html/initiatives/justice_rikers.shtml

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