Prison Program Educator Career Profile


Tiffany Cavanaugh, Reporting Staff

Name: Dan Cavanaugh

Occupation: Prison Program Educator

Education/Training: Bachelor’s Degree and Substance Abuse Certification

What is a typical day’s work consist of: I oversee 65 pretrial inmates in a responsibility program unit. Inmates are required to attend 2 classes a day for 28 days, consisting of violence prevention, anger management, substance abuse education, and mindfulness based stress reduction. During my 8 hour shift, inmates are responsible for their behavior language and program studies. During each class, inmates must keep notes in their “Transition Handbook” that is then reviewed by their case manager and classification committee. Classes are 1 hour each, located in the day area of the housing unit. Due to the large amount of inmates per class, the education style used is more of a lecture, then group participation.

Inmates also have the ability to further their learning during the evening by listening to audio self-help books. The books are available in MP3 Players, with material ranging guided meditation, spirits of development to substance abuse and behavior modification. Before signing out an MP3 Player, each inmate is required to take an “Awareness Analysis Test” in order to measure each inmate’s area of need. This test is then retaken after the 28 day period to identify areas of growth.

What advice would you offer someone interested in this career: The most important quality that a person must have to work with a population that needs to change is a belief that people can change. Most of the people that come to jail live in our community, and will later be returning to our community. The question is, are they returning better than they were? It’s up to me and the others that I work with to listen to the inmates, and to meet them where they are at in their stages of change.

What is the toughest part of the job: The toughest part is that they meet me at the beginning of their incarceration, so I rarely see them in the later stages of change. If I do see them again, it usually is because they re-offended when they got out and now they are back again.

What is the best part of the job: When I happen to see them on the outside, such as at the mall or a restaurant, with their families. I like to see when they are doing well, and when they show that they are happy to have met me. Some of my former inmates are now mentors helping other inmates who want a better life.