Skills Development

Through the Inmate Skills Development (ISD) initiative, the Bureau is focusing on building the kinds of skills essential to successful reintegration into society – ranging from activities of daily living, such as budgeting, to cognitive skills, such as the ability to maintain self-control. The process involves identifying inmate strengths and weaknesses using a standardized assessment tool, linking programming goals to specific skill deficit areas, and tracking the inmate’s progress on his/her individualized plan throughout incarceration.

Developed in collaboration with other agencies, including the courts and probation, the Inmate Skills Development System (ISDS) – the automated, web-based, assessment and tracking tool that supports this initiative – was created to help staff identify an inmate’s strengths and weaknesses, as they relate to release readiness. ISDS is designed to:

  • help link inmates with the most appropriate programs given their specific needs,
  • ensure all parties are focused on the same measurable outcomes,
  • assist in program resource allocation, and
  • improve information flow to partners with a stake in the outcome (the Courts, supervision agencies, etc.).

Dynamic in nature, this tool, which is being implemented at all Bureau institutions, incorporates information from a variety of sources, including court documents, behavioral observations and individual interviews. It is administered at the beginning of an inmate’s sentence, with subsequent updates to the assessment information over the course of the inmate’s incarceration. Output is documented in the ISD Plan, which is shared with supervision agencies. By providing inmates with programs most appropriate to their identified deficit areas, the BOP anticipates that inmates will be better-prepared and more likely to succeed upon release. This is expected to be particularly useful for those offenders with the greatest needs.

Close inter– and intra–agency collaboration is essential to achieving optimal reentry outcomes. A number of interagency initiatives and partnerships have been developed, the most comprehensive being the National Offender Workforce Development Partnership, which also includes representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services; the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services; the National Institute of Corrections; the Legal Action Center – National Hire Network; and others. Providing a viable means of employment is critical to offenders being able to support themselves and succeed as law-abiding citizens; and this partnership is designed to enhance reentry success by increasing opportunities for career-oriented employment of ex-offenders and addressing barriers to offender employment.

The Bureau is committed to the goal of creating a seamless transition between incarceration and the community for releasing offenders that ensures continuity of support and care. This coordinated, competency-based model for reentry is focused on increasing the likelihood of a successful community transition upon release.

E-mail questions to National Reentry Affairs Branch (BOP’s point of contact): National Reentry Affairs Branch