Grant Supports Innovative Training Initiative to Help Ex-Offenders Produce Braille Materials

Georgia Tech’s Alternative Media Access Center (AMAC) has received a $740,000 grant to fund development of an innovative training initiative that will help ex-offenders develop the skills necessary to produce Braille materials needed by persons with disabilities.

AMAC, a unit of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) that provides textbook support services for persons with disabilities, recently received the funding through the Second Chance Act of the U.S. Department of Justice/Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). The grant will support an innovative, prison-based technology training program dubbed Providing Real Opportunities for Income Through Technology (PROFITT). Partners include the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the National Braille Press and the American Printing House.

“This initiative will help meet the critical needs of persons with disabilities while providing ex-offenders with highly-marketable skills,” noted Christopher Lee, AMAC’s director. “Our goal is to create a template that could be used by any correctional facility to provide training that can lead to long-term career opportunities.”

The project will modify the existing and proven National Braille Press training curriculum to better serve the needs of offenders slated for impending release and return to the workforce. What makes this training unique is an added focus on the generation of computerized tactile graphics, providing high-demand, transferable software skills that prepare offenders for gainful employment upon release, Lee explained. PROFITT participants will also receive specialized small business management and employment skills training and post-release placement support assistance tailored to the needs of transitioning offenders.

“As a result of the peer review process, AMAC scored very highly on the application for this grant, and we felt that their emphasis on Braille technology was cutting-edge,” noted Gary L. Dennis, BJA senior policy advisor for corrections. “Ex-offenders can utilize this training to develop entrepreneurial skills that will better position them to engage in meaningful employment when they are released from prison.”

The purpose of the PROFITT project is to produce a blueprint for use by any correctional facility interested in implementing a comprehensive, competency-based Braille training curriculum geared toward long-term, sustainable income upon release. The project will reduce the rate of recidivism by providing participants with professional skills, develop and disseminate a competency-based Braille and graphics training program that can be used in any correctional facility and provide proficiency with transferable technological skills that have multiple workplace applications.

“We are excited to be able to provide real income and employment opportunities for offenders who have served their time and are ready to return to the workforce. This project will promote small business skills and provide a blueprint for more than 20 state justice programs,” said Lee. “The ultimate goal of this project is to reduce recidivism and to create jobs for our economy. We are grateful to our partners including Texas Department of Criminal Justice, National Braille Press and American Printing House for the Blind, organizations that will help ensure the success of this project.”

Launched in 2007 with support from the University System of Georgia and membership fees from participating institutions, AMAC initially served the 35 University System higher education institutions. Since then, its mission has expanded to include all types of post-secondary institutions, K-12 education, government agencies and even corporate clients. Among its services, AMAC converts standard textbooks to formats usable by persons with disabilities.

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Writer: Nancy Fullbright