During FY 2007, the Computer Recovery Program provided over 5,800 refurbished computers and related equipment to Texas schools at an estimated savings of $2.1 million. Established as a pilot project in October 1998, the program has placed over 22,000 refurbished computers, as well as monitors, keyboards, mice and power cords within area schools. In a letter from the Vega Independent School District (ISD), one of the many recipients of the program, the principal expressed, “This program has given Vega ISD the ability to update our technological needs to efficiently teach today’s youth. For a school district the size of Vega, we would never be able to afford to make the drastic technology change we made without this program.”
The equipment refurbished through this program comes from state, county and city agencies, as well as Texas school districts and institutions of higher learning. As such, the Computer Recovery Program provides these entities with an economical, convenient and environmentally sound way to dispose of their surplus and salvage equipment. Upon receipt, the donated equipment is sorted and evaluated. Usable equipment is placed into the refurbishing process while the non-useable equipment is sold to an authorized salvage vendor for non-landfill disposal. Currently over 600 state agencies donate to this program. The largest contributor of equipment is the University of Texas system followed by the Texas A&M University System.
The Computer Recover Program also benefits the offenders by providing them an opportunity to learn a marketable skill and earn industry-recognized certifications, both of which facilitate employment upon release. The program, located at both the Wynne and Daniel units, has certified approximately 62 offenders since its inception (as of July 31, 2008). A smaller scale program is also operational at the Gatesville Unit to maintain the computer equipment for the Braille Program and provide like training opportunity for the female offenders.
Offenders who have documented “free-world” training or experience, or who have completed relevant Windham School District vocational courses in computer maintenance can apply for placement in the Computer Recovery Program, which is a part of the Offender Work and Training Section of Texas Correctional Industries. Upon acceptance into the program, offenders are placed in an on-the-job training program that provides hands-on production experience and textbook training through structured lab sessions. These offenders learn the “how” and the “why” of service and technical procedures used in the industry. They are also prepared for the CompTia (Computer Technology Industry Association) A+ certification testing. A+ certification is an internationally recognized certification that validates an individual’s competency in computer service and technical support. Upon successful completion of this training phase and certification in A+, the offenders are able to continue their training to obtain the next level of certification, Network+. Again, Network+ is an internationally recognized certification, which validates an individual’s ability to install, configure and troubleshoot basic networking hardware, protocols and services.
Through generous contributions and the assistance of Microsoft staff, the offenders with Network+ certification also have the opportunity to progress to Microsoft certifications. Depending on their individual initiative and ability, the offenders can receive Microsoft Professional, Microsoft System Administrator, and Microsoft System Engineer certifications, as well as the Cisco Certified Network Association (CCNA) certification. The CCNA certification validates an offender’s ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks, including implementation and verification of connections to remote sites in a Wide-area Network.
All 62 offenders trained by this program have received A+ certification with 19 also receiving the Network+ certification. Fourteen have advanced to obtain a Microsoft certification with one (1) achieving the CCNA certification.
By helping area schools stay equipped with up-to-date technology for student learning, training offenders in highly marketable job skills, and providing local and state agencies, schools districts and institutions of higher education a cost effective, economical way to dispose of surplus and salvage computer equipment, the TDCJ Computer Recovery Program is a multi-level, win-win program for the citizens of Texas.