MSEA-SEIU Member Kristen Stevens works as the Education Program Coordinator for the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.
As the Education Program Coordinator for the medium-security Maine Correctional Center in Windham, Kristen Stevens oversees all educational programming for the men there, the women at the Women’s Center, and the women at the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center.
The programs she coordinates include adult education, Maine HiSET for high school equivalency degrees, college courses, and educational enrichment – a full range of educational programs so inmates can further their education while serving their time.
“Education lowers recidivism, so we have a team of five teachers here,” Kristen said of Maine Correctional Center, which houses 650 inmates. On the same grounds in Windham is the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center, which houses 96.
In June, in recognition of Kristen’s work providing educational opportunities to Maine prisoners and encouraging them to stay the course, the Maine Adult Education Association to which she belongs presented her with its 2019 Adult Education Distinguished Service Award. One of her colleagues, MSEA-SEIU Member Peter Servidio, a teacher at the Maine Correctional Center, nominated her for the award.
The award comes as 21 inmates at the Maine Correctional Center graduated this year with high school equivalency degrees through the HiSET program. To graduate, the inmates participated in the facility’s HiSET Academy. Kristen administered all the tests. “It prepares them for the world of work when they leave,” she said.
The award also comes after 11 men who are inmates at the Maine Correctional Center in May earned associates degrees in liberal studies through another program Kristen coordinates. Professors from the University of Maine at Augusta come to the facility and teach courses such as introduction to literature, ethics, philosophy and public speaking. That college programming is funded through the federal Second Chance Pell Experiment, an initiative the U.S. Department of Education launched in 2015 and expanded this year to cover inmates with financial hardship in 26 states.
It takes two years for an inmate at the Maine Correctional Center to earn an associate’s degree through the program, which is popular and has a wait list. Enrollment is capped at 15 men and 15 women. For those inmates who earn their associate’s degree while incarcerated, Kristen notices a profound change in them. “I think they become people they don’t recognize through their participation in this program, so it’s very rewarding,” she said.
Kristen has worked as Education Program Coordinator for the past three years. She previously worked at the Maine Correctional Center as a case manager. She implemented a peer tutoring program through Literacy Volunteers and also developed a Work Ready curriculum specifically for incarcerated individuals; that peer tutoring program is now part of the Maine Department of Corrections’ centralized programming. She also has worked as a clinical social worker at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.