Middlebury has partnered with Vermont Works for Women (VWW) in a three-year community-based pilot program to create a pathway from incarceration to employment for women. The program, called BEAM: Building Employment and Meaning, offers eligible participants stable housing, immediate employment, and support from a VWW reentry services program manager.
The program is the first of its kind outside the justice system in Vermont, and Middlebury College is the first employer partner. The partnership is mutually beneficial to the participants, for whom employment is a major success factor and contributor to reduced recidivism, and to Middlebury, which, like many employers in Vermont, has contended with staffing shortages and faced challenges in filling positions. More importantly, this program aligns with Middlebury’s mission to prepare students to lead engaged, consequential, and creative lives and address the world’s most pressing problems. By modeling and living these values, we can all contribute to our shared community and address our collective challenges.
The BEAM pilot is funded through a $300,000 grant for reentry services from the Vermont Department of Corrections, allocated through Act 183 last session. Additionally, the Middlebury Provost’s Fund made an initial investment of $50,000 toward the design and administration of the pilot program, which primarily supports housing for the participants, identified as one of the biggest barriers to stability and long-term employment success.
Nicholas J. Deml, commissioner of the Department of Corrections, has said the BEAM program “serves as a critical touchstone in fostering collaboration with employers across the state and cultivating meaningful opportunities for incarcerated individuals in Vermont.”
Securing steady employment and housing are among the biggest challenges for those making this transition. Program participants move into a house provided by VWW in Middlebury upon their release from Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF), and Middlebury College hires them as regular employees of Dining Services. The BEAM program, and VWW’s other justice services programs, are led by women who lend lived and professional experience to create a program that is gender responsive, trauma informed, and attuned to the particular needs of justice-involved women.
BEAM’s Middlebury program launched in 2023 with its first participants. The Middlebury pilot program can support up to four individuals at a time, and will accept new participants on a rolling basis. In order to be eligible for BEAM, individuals must be self-motivated and committed to recovery and employment. VWW is responsible for screening potential participants and supporting them in their journey to successfully reintegrate back into the community.
The concept for BEAM developed through conversations with Caitlin Goss, Middlebury College’s vice president for human resources and chief people officer and a member of the Vermont Works for Women Board of Directors, who had collaborated with VWW for years to build an inclusive hiring model through her previous employer, Rhino Foods.
“Middlebury College is thrilled to be the first employer partner for this innovative pilot program and welcomes the opportunity to develop a supportive and sustainable inclusive hiring model,” says Goss. “This work is aligned with our commitment to engage with our community, welcome new employees to campus, and actively dismantle structural barriers for employment that exist in our society. We look forward to developing and growing this model with Vermont Works for Women and other statewide stakeholders.”
The long-term goal of BEAM is to create a network of employers in Vermont that are committed to inclusive hiring practices that support the success and well-being of justice-involved individuals and that are invested in supporting program participants to overcome systemic barriers. Over the course of the three-year pilot, VWW will create employer best practices resources and build a pipeline where women can learn hard and soft skills, and be directly connected to employers with support upon reintegration.