Mike Paris Receives Petrine Marciniak Inspirational Award
April 21, 2017
(Photo provided courtesy of Correctional Industries)
TUMWATER – Mike Paris believes education is the key to keep people from returning to prison. He's correct, according to a 2014 RAND Corporation report that found inmates who participated in correctional education programs were 43 percent less likely to return to prison than those who didn't.
Paris has dedicated his career in corrections to bringing education into the lives of the incarcerated. He's spent the last 13 years as the Department of Corrections (DOC)'s education administrator, steadily increasing the number of inmates who earn GEDs and helping the department reach benchmark levels of post-release employment.
"We are able to meet the needs of students from very basic literacy all the way to academics and everything in between," Paris said in a September 2016 interview. "That has been a really important piece of work. Trying to get these pathways set up so that an inmate, regardless of where they are in terms of education, they can move forward and they can go as far as they want."
Paris is the 2017 recipient of the agency's Petrine Marciniak Inspirational Award. The award is named after Petrine Marcinak-Carlson, a former community corrections supervisor, who died in 1995 from breast cancer.
The award is given to an employee who, when confronted with a life-threatening situation, uses perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome while demonstrating an exceptionally high standard of professionalism and dedication on the job and serves as a role model to others. Paris received the award during the DOC's Annual Agency Awards ceremony on April 14, 2017.
"His vision and expertise, matched with his relentless belief in the value and importance of education for all as a means to change individuals and the world for the better, has influenced the department in many ways," said Jeff Landon, a senior administrator for programs with the Offender Change Division, who is also Paris' supervisor. "Mike remains committed, dedicated and determined to continue to see correctional education programs expand, never missing an opportunity to share the benefits of his work."
When Paris began working for the department in 2004, he was faced with the challenge of improving the efficiency of basic education and vocational programs. The programs are provided through a contract with the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC). Paris wanted to improve the programs to ensure that the DOC was meeting its responsibility to the taxpayers of the state of Washington.
He met with college presidents with specific goals to confirm the SBCTC was meeting its contractual obligations. He helped implement quarterly changes to the contract to make sure goals were met. Among standards Paris put in place were adopting a shared measurement system that ensured classrooms of at least 15 students, minimum required hours of instruction, and a set number of student completions.
Every quarter, corrections and college staff would meet to review the contractual terms were being met. Within a year, the contract went from underperforming to surpassing the number of students taking classes by eight percent.
Paris also led a vocational program advisory committee to evaluate every job training program in the corrections system to ensure the skills inmates learned while incarcerated could be used to obtain employment once he or she reentered society.
"We took a program that was really failing and improved it by generating goals and objectives and measurements, implementing those things, having the colleges react to that and do the work, which ultimately led to the results that are impactful on the inmate," Paris said.
The Department's Annual Agency Awards recognize employees for their continuous, outstanding work to improve public safety. See the award ceremony press release for a full list of this year's award winners.