WASHINGTON, D.C. | June 22, 2017
I’d like to thank our panel of witnesses and my colleagues for joining today’s very serious discussion on the safety and security of the Job Corps program. I also want to note my disappointment that the Office of Job Corps has decided not to testify today. Their attendance would have provided the committee with important information about the program and the measures taken by the Office of Job Corps to address these safety concerns.
The Job Corps program is intended to help some of our nation’s most disadvantaged youth receive high quality education, workforce development, and support services in order to become more employable, responsible, and productive citizens. The very purpose of the program is to serve those who are hard to serve and the safety of students and instructors within the Job Corps program should be priority one. Unfortunately that is not the case, and that is what brings us to today’s hearing.
The work of this committee, as well as other government bodies such as the Inspector General, have found a systemic and alarming lack of oversight in the safety and security of the Jobs Corps program, and we have reached a critical point where lives are in real danger if congress does not act.
In fact, over 30 different government reports and audits have raised concerns over the safety and security of the Jobs Corps program. A 2009 IG report even noted that “40 percent of 235 significant incidents occurring at [six] centers during our audit period were not reported.”
Even in 2015, an IG report specifically stated, “Job Corps needs to improve enforcement and oversight of student disciplinary policies to better protect students and staff.”
What is truly shocking and sad is that nine student deaths and a number other violent or health related incidents have occurred just since 2015 as a result of lapses in safety and security.
These reports are extremely troubling, and no program sponsored by the federal government should have such tragedies associated with it.
This committee has spent almost two years investigating and asking about these repeated lapses in safety and security within the Job Corps program, and we are still without answers.
What we do know is that the deficiencies in proper security measures are not isolated, or associated with one specific Job Corps center. This is a systemic problem throughout the Job Corps program.
The security failures within Job Corps are a failure in basic good governance, and jeopardize the safety of American citizens.
Today we will hear testimony from witnesses who have made findings highlighting the troubling lack of safety and oversight in Job Corps centers.
We will hear testimony of failures in reporting violent incidents, security lapses, and a lack of cooperation with law enforcement officials.
While these facts may be troubling, it is vital that we as a committee understand just where the lack of oversight has occurred in order for us to make proper recommendations to keep the Job Corps program safe for the future.
The Jobs Corps program was designed to help disadvantaged young people gain the skills they need to achieve a good education; find a good-paying job; and have a successful life.
Putting the students and instructors of the Job Corps program in harm’s way does a disservice to its participants and the American taxpayers.
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