During the summer of 2016, ARCHS welcomed Alysson Gatens, a graduate student fromUniversity of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), for an Applied Research Internship opportunity at ARCHS. Gatens utilized her background and skills in criminal justice and in program evaluation to analyze and make recommendations about ARCHS’ Culinary Institute.
"This project was a great opportunity for me to design and carry out an evaluation from start to finish, as well as collaborate with a variety of program stakeholders," said Gatens.
The evaluation was conducted with cooperation of staff from ARCHS and Employment Connection, culinary arts faculty from St. Louis Community College – Forest Park, and Institute graduates. The Institute began its first cohort in 2013 by serving women recently released from prison. By 2016 the Institute had expanded its fourth cohort to include men with a similar criminal justice history.
The program has provided these 55 adults with vocational skills in culinary arts and wrap-around resources as a way to increase employability and reduce recidivism. Overall the evaluation showed that, despite the desired level of job stability not being attained, the recidivism goals were achieved consistently and successfully. ARCHS will use the recommendations to make further improvements in the program’s design.
Best practices indicate that dollars invested in ex-offenders working and law-abiding are returned to the community not only in lower prison system costs but also in enhanced public safety, increased earning tax revenues, and strengthened families.