When Rippey native Tina Miner accepted the job as Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) Re-entry Coordinator with the Iowa Department of Corrections in August 2017, her main focus was to empower women by motivating and encouraging them to believe in themselves.
She was living proof of her own philosophy. The loss of her 4-year-old son Cody to illness in 2002, followed not afterward by the death of her father,
“It was then that I decided, with my young children at that time standing behind me, to start a career in social work,” Miner said. “It was my son Cody and my other three children who inspired me to advocate for those who are less fortunate, and don’t have a voice.”
By 2008, this single mother of now three was working two full-time jobs while also taking classes at DMACC. Nevertheless, she persisted, eventually transferring to Iowa State and graduating in 2017 with a master’s degree in social work (MSW).
In August she took a position with the Iowa Department of Corrections for Women / Iowa Workforce Development as a re-entry coordinator in Mitchellville, Iowa. She quickly saw where an intervention could empower the female offenders.
“One of the challenges that I faced in this position was the inability to access the internet,” Miner said, describing the environment in Mitchellville. “All of the testing and forms were done on paper, which then needed to be transferred into the IWD system.”
With hundreds of offenders filling out paperwork, the process was slow and tedious, she said, leaving many unable to obtain employment or enroll with the IWD.
All that changed earlier this month. After several meetings and a collaboration with the IT department and administrative staff, Miner got the go ahead to open internet-accessible computer labs in the correctional facility. Offenders are now permitted limited — supervised — access to sites such as IowaWORKS, Future Ready Iowa, Indeed and Career Builder and also have the option to take the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) test online.
Miner’s innovation is groundbreaking, making the ICIW the first Department of Corrections facility in Iowa to provide internet for its offenders.
With internet access, she said, offenders are able to start their transition back into the job market from the ground up by learning to build their resumes and working through the process of Internet job search skills.
They also learn programs that help foster computer and keyboarding skills, Power Point presentations and using spread sheets so that offenders don’t just get a job but are able to build sustainable careers.
Miner said offenders gain a huge step thanks to internet access because they can apply for jobs before leaving the ICIW, making them more likely to be gainfully employed before leaving prison and helping them establish a pro-social, self-sufficient lifestyle.
By having a job when leaving the ICIW, offenders not only gain self-esteem but also establish roots and help reduce the recidivism rate.
“My goal when starting this position was changing lives and empowering women to be who they really want to be,” Miner said. “I wanted to give people a chance with resources and show them they can have a career in life, and they don’t just have to settle for just any job.”
So far, her innovations are succeeding so well that she seems almost surprised at them herself.
“For a small-town girl from Rippey to be making state history in Iowa by encouraging change in so many women’s lives is an honor to me and my children,” she said. “I will continue empowering and advocate for pro-social change in women’s lives.”
Miner knows at first hand that hard work and persistence can pay off, and now she wants to share that hope with the Mitchellville population.
“I share my story with many women about the struggles and obstacles in my life in hopes they can see that you can do anything you put your mind to,” she said. “I want women to know you can go to school as an older adult, and you can build a career for yourselves. You just have to work hard at it. Through the loss of my son Cody and my father within three years of one another, I vowed to make a difference in my life and in my children’s lives. Now its time to pay it forward.”