Data Driven Leadership

Michigan DOC Changes the Face of Rehabilitation with a Powerful Education System

Guest: Kyle Kaminski, Offender Success (OS) Administrator, Michigan Department of Corrections

Kyle Kaminski, offender success administrator at Michigan Department of Corrections, and Ben Wories, director of public sector services at Resultant, join this episode to share their story. They explain how introducing technology and education in Michigan’s prisons not only transformed attitudes but also reduced recidivism rates. Their story demonstrates the effectiveness of bold leadership, the importance of public-private partnerships, and the significance of data in measuring success.

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What keeps formerly incarcerated individuals in their communities and out of prison?

The Michigan Department of Corrections set out to answer that question.

The key, they discovered, is education.

Kyle Kaminski, offender success administrator at Michigan Department of Corrections, and Ben Wories, director of public sector services at Resultant, join this episode to share their story. They explain how introducing technology and education in Michigan’s prisons not only transformed attitudes but also reduced recidivism rates. Their story demonstrates the effectiveness of bold leadership, the importance of public-private partnerships, and the significance of data in measuring success.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How data has driven MDOC’s reduction in recidivism
  • How public-private partnerships enable innovation
  • How bold leadership leads to positive change

In this podcast:

  • [00:00-03:15] An introduction to the episode
  • [03:15-08:00] Education’s impact on recidivism
  • [08:00-20:00] Implementing a learning management system
  • [20:00-35:00] Addressing concerns and challenges
  • [35:00-41:00] Making a data-driven case for education in corrections
  • [41:00-47:22] The role of private-public partnership in innovation

Our Guest

Kyle Kaminski

Kyle Kaminski

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Kyle Kaminski serves as the Offender Success (OS) Administrator for the Michigan Department of Corrections, overseeing the MDOC’s programming, education, and reentry efforts. The MDOC’s OS efforts include a variety of academic, vocational, and post-secondary offerings, the utilization of evidence-based programming, and a focus on post-release employment and performance-based reentry contracts.

Kyle joined the Michigan Department of Corrections in January of 2014 in the role of Legislative Liaison, helping to promote the Department’s interests as part of the legislative process and continues to serve in this role in addition to his Offender Success responsibilities. Kyle is also a member of the MDOC’s Executive Policy Team that helps execute the strategic vision of the Department.

Prior to joining the Michigan Department of Corrections, Kyle worked for nearly a decade in the Michigan Legislature. He is a graduate of James Madison College at Michigan State University and resides in Lansing with his wife, Jennifer.


Jess Carter [00:00:01]:


The power of data is undeniable and unharnessed. It's nothing but chaos.


Speaker 1[00:00:06]:


The amount of data, it was crazy.


Speaker 2 [00:00:08]:


Can I trust it?


Speaker 3 [00:00:09]:


You will waste money. 


Speaker 4 [00:00:11]:


Held together with duct tape. 


Speaker 5 [00:00:12]


Doomed to failure. 


Jess Carter [00:00:13]:


This season, we're solving problems in real-time to reveal the art of the possible. Making data your ally, using it to lead with confidence and clarity, helping communities and people thrive. This is Data-Driven Leadership, a show by Resultant.

 Hey, guys, in this episode, you are going to hear from Kyle Kaminski, and he is over at the Department of Corrections in Michigan. Man, this is a cool story. So even if you're not a public sector person, I think you're going to really enjoy this as a taxpayer and somebody who cares about your neighbors and the citizens and understands how we can help people, people get to a better place in life and the government's role in that and the ways that we can add innovation and technology to create better outcomes for all citizens. So what I really enjoyed listening to when I did listen to Kyle walk through the story is the leadership that was leveraged here, the ways that he anticipated fears and concerns around this kind of an innovation, the ways that he helped quell those fears with data, and. And also understood and anticipated the challenges they would take.


Jess Carter [00:01:31]:

They did have hiccups. They did have things that they didn't expect that didn't always go well. He was composed, calm, anticipated those things, and, you know, stayed through the challenges until we came out on the other side. And I think that that is an encouraging story. It's a testament to what a great data-driven leader does. He stayed, he supported his team. He was there when they needed him, and he gave so much credit to all the people around him. He knew how to build a meaningful team.


Jess Carter [00:02:00]:

So I really hope you enjoy this story. I think that there's a lot of ways that anyone can listen and leverage some of the learnings of his journey and experience in their current data challenge or opportunity. So I hope you enjoy listening to this and hope we're catching you at a good time for you to implement some of the things that he did. Okay, let's get into it. Welcome back to Data-Driven Leadership. I'm your host, Jess Carter. Today we have Kyle Kaminski, offender success administrator for the Michigan Department of Corrections. And Ben Wories, justice practice lead at Resultant.


Jess Carter [00:02:38]:

Joining us. Let's get into it. Welcome, Ben and Kyle. How are you guys?


Kyle Kaminski [00:02:43]:



Ben Wories [00:02:44]:



Jess Carter [00:02:45]:

Awesome. I'm glad that you're here. I imagine that people are either curious, at least intrigued to hear department of Corrections on our Data-Driven Leadership podcast. So, Kyle, I am really excited that you're joining us, and I think what we're about to talk about is going to be really interesting for people, but we have to tee it up for them first. So will you help me do that?


Kyle Kaminski [00:03:08]:



Jess Carter [00:03:10]:

So the first thing I'm going to want you to explain, so there's some kind of basic questions we'll get into, but we are going to talk a lot about a state learning management system that you've led and helped implement at the Department of Corrections in Michigan. My first question is, for anyone, is why does the Department of Corrections need a statewide learning management system?


Kyle Kaminski [00:03:33]:

Well, it's a great question, and the answer is because our job is about a lot more than just incarcerating people. It's really about getting people ready to come back into the community and be productive members of the broader society. Just to give you some or give the listeners some basic context. In Michigan, we're a relatively large correction system. We have just under 33,000 individuals who are incarcerated right now. They're incarcerated across 26 state prisons that are spread out around the state. And the MDOC is responsible for all of them. But each year, somewhere between six and 7000 people come into that system, and somewhere between six and 7000 people leave that system and go back to communities around Michigan.


Kyle Kaminski [00:04:13]:

And so when we think about why do we need a learning management system and why do we need to focus on education, it's because every year we've got, you know, six or 7,000 people coming back into the community. And the question is, are they going to come back into the community in a better spot, better position, more skills, better educated than when they last left that community. And the Department of Corrections has answered that in the affirmative, that we want to do as much as we can from an education perspective, skill building perspective, et cetera. But we need a platform and we need tools to accomplish that.


Jess Carter [00:04:44]:

Okay, so people who are in this world hear and talk about recidivism a lot. That's a big word. Not everyone knows it. So recidivism largely is what?


Kyle Kaminski [00:04:59]:

So, I mean, at its most basic level, it means how many people who have been in the system return to the system, and different states will measure it slightly differently. But the most common way to measure it is you take everybody who left prison in a calendar year and you track them for three years and you figure out how many come back and how many don't come back. And when you hear a state or another group talk about the recidivism, rate. That's actually the number that came back. So that's sort of, for lack of a better term, the failure rate. And so you want that number as low as possible. But we also increasingly want to talk about the success. And so we recently here in Michigan announced that we are once again right around our lowest recidivism rate in our state's history.


Kyle Kaminski [00:05:40]:

Our 2020 releases had 22.7 of them, ended up returning to prison, which is a low recidivism rate as compared to many other locations. But maybe even more importantly, it meant that 6100 people who left prison in 2020 didn't come back in the following three years. So that's a great return on investment for taxpayers, but it also means a lot of people moving forward with their lives in a productive way.


Jess Carter [00:06:08]:

Yeah, you started to answer my next question, actually, which is why does this all matter? Why should a citizen care? And so there's sort of spokes of this, I imagine, one is what you just said, taxpayer dollars. So it costs a lot of money to support the lives of all of these people, is that right?


Kyle Kaminski [00:06:29]:

Yeah, absolutely. The Department of Corrections, our annual budget is about 2 billion with a b dollars a year. We're not the largest state agency, but we're one of the largest state agencies. And the reality is corrections is a costly endeavor because it's a 24/7 endeavor. And you're also not only doing just custody, but you're doing education, you're doing healthcare, you're doing physical planning, doing everything that goes into it.


Jess Carter [00:06:52]:



Kyle Kaminski [00:06:52]:

So, yeah, to your broader question, kind of why should people care? I think oftentimes people will maybe be a little dismissive and think, well, that doesn't impact me. If I don't have a family member or if I'm not directly impacted by the criminal justice system, why should I take an interest in that? First, more folks are impacted by it either directly or at one step of removal that people think, like I said, we have 33,000 people incarcerated within the MDOC. We have another 10,000 that are on parole, meaning they were incarcerated and they're in a period of supervision. And we have about 40,000 that are on probation, meaning they haven't come to prison. And hopefully they won't. But they've been involved in the criminal justice system, they're under supervision in the community. So you add that up and it's about 80,000 people out of Michigan's roughly 10 million residents who are under our jurisdiction on any given day. And when you kind of step back and think about their families and their communities.


Kyle Kaminski [00:07:44]:

Most folks would be able to find a connection there.


Jess Carter [00:07:47]:

Yeah, absolutely. Ben, is there anything else? So we're talking about the cost side, but also what else would you add about why would a citizen care about a state learning management system for corrections or about recidivism?


Ben Wories [00:08:01]:

Yeah, I think Kyle makes a great point when he talks about how many people in our communities are being affected by this, that are part of this cycle. Kyle, maybe it would help if you personalized a little bit and gave an example of what that looks like for someone, what they are, what programming they might be experiencing while they're incarcerated and how that makes a difference for their journey afterwards.


Kyle Kaminski [00:08:27]:

Yeah, I'd be happy to because I think oftentimes in corrections, we focus a lot on the big picture and the logistics of corrections. But it really is sort of the people within it, both those that live in prison, but also those that work in prison, that really are where the impact is felt. So a difficult reality is that about half the people who come to prison in Michigan do not have a high school diploma or equivalency when they arrive. So there's a strong correlation at the least, maybe even some causation, between educational attainment and criminal justice system involvement. And so because of that, we operate schools at each of our facilities, and we are enrolling students. We're assessing them and enrolling them, and they're doing adult basic education. And we have certified teachers around the state who do an awesome job. But one of the things we looked at, the reason we ended up pursuing this project is we were still kind of operating in the dark ages in some way.


Kyle Kaminski [00:09:23]:

Teachers had classrooms, they had classroom materials, but there really wasn't much in the way of technology in those classrooms. And so that was limiting, limiting in a lot of ways. And so that's part of why we, we took on this project and we said, look, we need to give our teachers more tools with which to engage their students. We also need to give students more tools with which to engage the broader world. And we need a structured way to do that. It can't be a free-for-all. It is still prison. We still have custody security concerns.


Kyle Kaminski [00:09:57]:

And so it's not as easy as just giving everybody a device and saying, well, just go on the Internet and do what you please. That's not going to work in our setting. But there's so many resources that are available, but they're available in the cloud or they’re web-based, and we weren't accessing those before we started this project. So when I think about sort of what's it mean to somebody, it means somebody sitting in front of a device, perhaps for the first time in their life, and actually directing their own learning in a meaningful way. It means them accessing resources, curated websites that we allow them to access that are educational so that they're doing skill building and they're thinking about it. And the other, I think, exciting thing is, you know, I talk a lot with, with our students who are going through these programs, and you can see the excitement, and you can also see that they're sharing that excitement with the folks that they're connected to back in the community, oftentimes their children. And they're kind of flipping the script a little bit all around. Education.


Kyle Kaminski [00:10:58]:

Education for many of them was not a great experience the first time through, and now they're actually getting kind of excited about it and they're passing that excitement on.


Jess Carter [00:11:06]:

That's awesome. That's so interesting to me, too, because I think I have all the access to anything that I could possibly want to Google whenever I want to. And I still experience FOMO about what's the next new cutting edge technology and how do I keep up. I can't fathom going into a year, a half decade, a decade worth of a period of time where I don't have access to the Internet. I'm having classroom, whatever, and I try to get released and figure out how to be employable, how to do what other people have learned how to do for years. A decade. I mean, that sounds honestly terrifying, which is very, very scary. I mean, are there participants who are jumping into this program and they are starting from there? Truly?


Kyle Kaminski [00:12:00]:

Yeah. I mean, there are. I mean, we have individuals who have been incarcerated since before the Internet was really available. And so we have folks kind of encountering this at all different levels.


Jess Carter [00:12:13]:



Kyle Kaminski [00:12:14]:

The learning management system uses Google classroom. So we have some students that quite honestly have used it. They were using it before they came. They might be younger. They were using it in junior high, high school before they became involved in the criminal justice system. So for them, it feels sort of comfortable. We have other folks who have been incarcerated since the early 1980s, and this is their first really meaningful connection with these devices. And you have to keep that in mind.


Kyle Kaminski [00:12:44]:

I think our staff have to keep that in mind where even basic things like how to use a mouse, how to use a trackpad, click on this link, it's highlighted blue. That means it'll take you somewhere else. There's more to learn.


Jess Carter [00:12:56]:



Kyle Kaminski [00:12:57]:

Things that we all take for granted. For some of our students, this is their first time encountering that.


Jess Carter [00:13:01]:

Okay, that's incredible. So when you talk about a learning management system, again, for people who haven't implemented one of those yet, you started to explain Google classroom, what all is included? What are we talking about when we talk about learning management system?


Kyle Kaminski [00:13:16]:

So, I mean, what's really important and what's really unique and beneficial here is that we have a platform now where we can allow students to engage with education kind of throughout the facility, particularly as our infrastructure gets built out and we add additional secure Wi Fi. But really what it comes out to is having a way for students and instructors to interact and for students to access information even when they're not in the classroom. We very much favor face to face instruction. We have great teachers. We think that's a really impactful model. But we're limited ultimately by physical space and time when we use that model. And so allowing us to have this type of platform means we can both potentially enroll more students because we can have them do some distance learning or similar type learning while they're not in, in the classroom. But it also allows us to add folks who are maybe waitlisted to be in the physical classroom, but could be working on their education and their self help and their enrichment during that period of time.


Kyle Kaminski [00:14:11]:

We can even check in and see how they're doing and see who's really motivated, who's making that, you know, making that push and, you know, move them forward with their own endeavors.


Jess Carter [00:14:21]:

That's awesome. I have like a concerning number of questions, so some of these are quick, but I'm just curious, does everyone get enrolled in the program? Do they self enroll? Are they opted in? How does that work?


Kyle Kaminski [00:14:33]:

So today, unfortunately, not everybody enrolls in our education programs. Everybody has the opportunity to be placed in one or more of the education programs, but we have to utilize waitlist for many of them. So like I mentioned, about 50% of folks don't have a high school equivalency or diploma. So they're going to start on our academic track and they'll either be in the classroom or they'll be waitlisted for that. Once they have that, or if they came into prison with that, then they have two new tracks that open up to them. One is career and technical education, where we also use this platform. One exciting thing we've been able to do is been able to offer access to an auto mechanic training curriculum from one of the big, big three manufacturers, which is obviously very important to us up here in Michigan, because we're the home of the big three, and it's allowing folks to do the same exact training that they would do if they went to a school directly provided by that manufacturer and then can go work in the dealership network for them.


Kyle Kaminski [00:15:27]:

So one option or one avenue is current technical education, and then the other avenue is post secondary. So we partner right now with nine colleges or universities, all of which are based out of Michigan. We do face-to-face instruction with them, and students can enroll today. They're not using the new platform yet because we're kind of have focused on the MDOC education piece, but that is definitely the future that those colleges and universities will be on that platform as well. So that is really exciting. So as we think about the 33,000 people, no, not all of them are able to access it daily right now, but we're hopeful that's where we'll get. The other thing is, right now, we're kind of limited to our school buildings because that was the original design and roll out. But as we've rolled this out, then it will go to our state legislature and say, you know, the real game changer would be secure Wi Fi, where we could put this in housing units in the other areas of the facility so that folks could access, you know, this network and other, other things, you know, kind of at their, at their will to do this.


Kyle Kaminski [00:16:27]:

And so that project is moving forward now.


Jess Carter [00:16:29]:



Kyle Kaminski [00:16:30]:

Hopefully, we'll have a first site up with Wi Fi early next year and then the remainder of our facilities up over the next few years.


Jess Carter [00:16:37]:

That's amazing. That, that feels huge. I mean, even as, you know, as somebody who's been through college or whatever, you know, when I'm studying, there's, there's sort of, you can tell when you're in kind of the right space, mentally to learn. And then there's sort of these times when it's like, not the right time, like I can't really comprehend something or I can't go into detail. And the ability to have them kind of have that, I think, agency to know, when do they, when do I really need to jump in and when do I actually, when can I go study at the pace and the, the time that's best for me to learn is a pretty empowering thing for someone. I imagine that that's really powerful. So let me ask you this. As somebody who's obviously passionate about this and has been advocating for it and in the trenches working on it, Kyle, when you look at the implementation, I'm sure that you've probably got some story where you walked into your house and just put your head in your hands and thought, this is so hard.


Jess Carter [00:17:30]:

I mean, like, I'm curious about, was it the tech, was it the people? Was it a process? Like, could you walk us through what it was like to be you for a day about, you know, as you're implementing what was really challenging? When did you find yourself in that place?


Kyle Kaminski [00:17:45]:

You know, I think honestly, the most challenging aspect of the implementation was getting people to even believe on the front end that it could be done, because we have an environment where we are technology skeptics, to say the least. Corrections tends to look at technology and immediately say, what could go wrong? How could this be misused? And I joke oftentimes when I talk about this to groups that like corrections and not just the Michigan Department of Corrections, I think this is pretty much true for all corrections agencies across the country. We were pretty convinced we could just outwait the Internet and maybe it would go away. We could outwait technology and maybe it would go away. We kind of played that card for about 30 years, and finally we've had to acknowledge, like, and I don't think this is going away. And actually, it could be a really key tool for us to do our work if we could just kind of wrap our heads around it. So I was lucky. We have a director here in Michigan, director Heidi Washington, who has been at the forefront of a lot when it comes to effective corrections, and she has a very strong vision.


Kyle Kaminski [00:18:52]:

That vision has a huge element around education, around helping people really become successful when they get out. And so it gave us the opportunity to even have this discussion where I think some other states maybe wouldn't have even been willing to try this. But we had that leadership in our state that said, yes, we need to figure out how to do this. Now, once we got over that initial hurdle, yeah, there were some challenging days, but I will say the folks involved on this on all sides, with Resultant, with the MDOC, with our partner agency and state government, which handles our IT, everybody seemed ready and excited to make it happen. There are definitely things we encountered we didn't expect to encounter, like any good project, you think you know what you know and then you don't. But once we sort of got it rolling, it rolled pretty well. Now, I will say I'm not an IT guy, so I left it up to folks much smarter than me when it came to that stuff, and maybe they pulled all their hair out as we're going through this process, got to the end with the product and it's really worked well for us.


Jess Carter [00:20:02]:

That's awesome, isn't it? I find it interesting, as we have these conversations, how much a technical project, how many human emotions are evoked during some of this. I mean, what you're kind of alluding to is fear. There's so much fear. And I was going to ask you how that played a role. I mean, in my head, my first thought was you're going to let somebody who's, to use terrible fear-based phrases, like behind bars, access the Internet. To your point, how are they going to misuse it? And so, I mean, when you think about some of that, do you remember how did you overcome some of that? That's really powerful barriers to productivity and.


Kyle Kaminski [00:20:44]:

Progressive, you know, I think, yeah, no, there were definitely those conversations that happened and there's definitely some skepticism. I think when we encountered those things, we were really careful to always kind of keep an eye on what the end goal was and also not really leave open the possibility that we weren't going to get there. And I think that's kind of key. And again, a lot of that comes back to the leadership of our department that they were strongly supportive of doing this. That being said, yeah, I got some panicked phone calls from the facilities. Hey, did you know this is happening? Hey, what I can remember is we had just launched at a facility and a student was putting something into it. And while they have access to the Internet, it's very curated, it's very locked down. There's a very well-designed firewall.


Kyle Kaminski [00:21:37]:

They can only reach sites that are pre-approved, that are white listed. But a student was putting something sort of into the address bar and the address bar was autocompleting. And I got a panicked phone call from somebody saying, oh, my gosh, it's autocompleting. That means they're touching the wider Internet and this is going to be a concern and they're going to use it as sort of this de facto Google search function. But I remember I picked up the phone and we called one person at Resultant, we're like, hey, can you turn this feature off? Because this doesn't instill a lot of confidence. We don't think it's a problem, but, like, it's not instilling confidence. And that afternoon it was turned off statewide and it never became a problem again. So I think that's some of what we encountered, was there were folks who would do that.


Kyle Kaminski [00:22:17]:

I got a couple panicked phone calls about, oh, they're accessing the Internet. And I'd say, okay, well, let's walk through what they're actually doing. Well, they worked. They were accessing the programs that were on the platform that were clearly designed for them to access. So some of it was really educational on our side. I will say what I found remarkable is how few questions I get about it now. There were some questions during the initial rollout, and now it's in a really short period of time, quite honestly, just sort of accept it and take it for granted.


Kyle Kaminski [00:22:51]:

And the other thing that I think is important that we stressed is we're going to have technology no matter what. So let's work with a partner and let's design something that actually meets our needs. Because one of the dangerous things, and we've encountered this with some of our other technologies, you kind of grab at something that's not really fully designed for the environment and you think it's going to work okay. You think, well, if I buy something that doesn't have many features, that'll be okay, like a relatively limited feature is good for this environment. But then it turns out, actually, no, you might want something with many features, but that are customizable, and so that they're actually customizing the environment and that that's actually a better device or a better platform to use versus something that you think is somehow more correctional acceptable just because it only does five things versus something that can actually do 25 things, but you can control all 25 of them.


Jess Carter [00:23:42]:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, and I didn't think to ask Ben, I should have equally asked you if you had any hands in your head moments as well. But when you look back, were there other experiences for you about the technical challenges on the project or things that you, you observed firsthand or secondhand that you knew were challenging?


Ben Wories [00:23:59]:

I think there are times where the partnership with Google was really important. This was one of the first implementations in this environment at this scale. So being able to get trust rules in place and make it so that things could be as customizable as they needed to be, there were things that had to be worked through that are now able to be scaled at a really wide level. I think the big takeaway, Kyle, to what you just said about having something with more features was your statement earlier where you have maybe younger people who are incarcerated and maybe have recent memories of being in school and using this system. This is what 190 something million students and teachers are using right now. It's the same tool that those learners likely at many of the secondary education institutions you mentioned. So having something with limited features that's unfamiliar or won't be something they'll experience again in the future also puts a lot of guardrails around how valuable it is. So it's really exciting to see this is something that they'll carry those skills and that familiarity forward.


Jess Carter [00:25:10]:

That's a great point. Yeah. It's not just a tool. It's a tool that will be one that they recognize and use in their future as well.


Ben Wories [00:25:18]:

It's a skill set that comes with it. Transferable and, well, you know, to things that we really take for granted, like buying a plane ticket perhaps someday, or buying those packages that keep arriving at my front door for some reason. I don't know. I don't know where they come from. Those day-to-day life things start building familiarity with keyboards and mice, but also interfaces that are transferable and not just specifically designed. Not just specifically designed for the incarcerated population or incarcerated learner.


Jess Carter [00:25:53]:

Yeah. Well, let me ask this, then. So, Kyle, I'm sure that there's some accountability in government about the impact success, both from a quantitative perspective, but also like a story, like when it comes to where you guys are at today, was it a pilot? Are you fully rolled out? What does that look like when it comes to impact?


Kyle Kaminski [00:26:14]:

So I'd say we're somewhere in the middle. So we definitely started with a pilot with Resultant. We actually did a kind of unique option for us from a procurement perspective. We did something called a competitive proof of concept where it wasn't a request for a proposal. Instead we kind of went out and said, look, if somebody will come in, set this up on a pilot basis at a few facilities, run it for a period of time, all essentially at cost to whoever was setting it up and we like it, then we'll move forward and negotiate. And so Resultant did that pilot and that allowed us to move forward and sign a contract statewide. We are deployed statewide now. So each of our schools has this network and the platform has Chromebook-like devices that are in place, but we're still hardwired.


Kyle Kaminski [00:27:04]:

So we're deployed in multiple classrooms at each facility, but not all classrooms. And we're not deployed beyond the school building. The next phase for us is really on our side, which is getting that secure Wi Fi network into all the facilities beyond just the school building. And then that'll allow us to kind of take that last step of cutting that cord and getting this out to everybody else. We haven't really talked about it, but it was also a key part of the project, which is we have electronic law libraries in all of our facilities, and that's a constitutional requirement for correctional agencies nationally. And while we previously had electronic law libraries, so it's not, that piece is not a new concept. The fact that now students, or, I'm sorry, in this case, not even students, just prisoners, can go to the law library, can essentially click start on a Chromebook and be in LexisNexis doing their legal research is really phenomenal. And as I've talked to men and women who have been using that, they've been really appreciative because again, the actual interface and the experience, they recognize it's going to be more similar to what they're going to do when they get out.


Kyle Kaminski [00:28:15]:

And not that they're going to be LexisNexis necessarily when they get out, but just the idea of doing research, doing it on something that is a laptop, it's not a mouse and keyboard that have a cord that go into the wall somewhere and you don't really see anything and it's very stripped out and limited, now they're really getting used to the idea of just that muscle memory, of even working with the devices on a regular basis.


Jess Carter [00:28:37]:

Wow. Okay. So this is amazing. And one of the things I want to ask you is, again, with projects like these, with the impact that you, you knew you had the potential to have, and now you're realizing it, go live can be really meaningful. So, like, when did we go live with the pilot?


Kyle Kaminski [00:28:57]:

Oh, boy. You're testing me out on the dates. So we would have been working on the pilot in, I believe, late 2022, early 2023. And then we started an actual rollout, kind of mid ‘23.


Jess Carter [00:29:16]:



Kyle Kaminski [00:29:16]:

Rollout was an interesting experience.


Jess Carter [00:29:18]:



Kyle Kaminski [00:29:19]:

I was at the facilities, not all of them, but I was at the facilities for some of them. And the first rollout date didn't actually work, but that was not a Resultant thing. We were struggling with some firewall permissions on our side. So it was a very long day to try to get it figured out and. But we went back and got it working the next time. There's a gentleman from Resultant who I'll name drop here named Drew Boone, who I think works somewhere out of Colorado who has been a real godsend and did some awesome work for us during those rollouts to make it happen.


Jess Carter [00:29:51]:

Awesome. Were you there? So it sounds like per any pilot rollout, there might be some kinks, right. But were you still there or around or when we first got somebody into a Chromebook?


Kyle Kaminski [00:30:03]:

Yes, I was physically there at the first site when not the original pilot, but the first, like, true startup stand up at a facility, and it was another pretty long day with lots of spinning wheels on the screen. Nothing's connecting. And then it was, you know, phone calls back and forth, and we're playing relay on the phones, you know. Cause again, you're in a prison setting, so you can't just have a cell phone that you pull out and call. You're communicating messages to this comms closet, to the outside. And I remember where all of a sudden, sort of the Google classroom thing sort of popped up, and there was just sort of this enthusiasm in the room. There's probably, I don't know, five or seven of us in the room of like, holy cow, this is actually happening. Like, we don't know, but it's actually happening.


Ben Wories [00:30:50]:



Jess Carter [00:30:50]:

What did we do? This is great. That's awesome. How exciting. Did you make someone sit down and immediately start taking a program?


Kyle Kaminski [00:31:01]:

It had been a long day, so I don't know that we, we made anybody do it, but we were definitely, I think probably once we got some of the law libraries up, we were definitely surfing around the LexisNexis a little bit to see how it worked, and there's a lot of excitement. And I know we actually had some, some prisoners come in later that night at some of the facilities because we needed the law library up and running. And so we were kind of there as they kind of came in and saw, saw the new devices and sat down and started using them at some of the sites, which was kind of exciting. The feedback was really positive almost from day one.


Ben Wories [00:31:33]:

What was that moment like? What's the energy in the room as they sit down and start?


Kyle Kaminski [00:31:37]:

It was really positive, because I think one thing that folks who have not been around the environment may not understand is, well, I think folks would understand that it's a challenging environment. But I think one of the things that folks maybe don't understand is just that sense of, on the part of the folks who are incarcerated when they see something that to them says people care and are investing in something that is going to be beneficial to us. And so I think there's a lot of excitement just to see the devices. They may not fully understand everything that's going on behind the scenes with the network and the platform, but just the idea of, whoa, wait a second, suddenly there are laptops here that look like what I know laptops to look like, and I get to use them, and it's not, you know, and even though what they can do on them is intentionally limited, it's still significantly more than they've ever been able to do before. And so I think the feedback because of that has been really positive.


Jess Carter [00:32:37]:

It's interesting.


Ben Wories [00:32:38]:

I was gonna. What was the first time? So a lot of people have questions about the physical security of these devices. Are these devices being broken or disrespected in some way? Compare that first moment when you were able to open up that room and let people have access to the devices, to the first time that there was ever a physical problem with one. What was the story of the first one that broke?


Kyle Kaminski [00:33:00]:

You know, honestly, we haven't had too many that have broken. And so I think that's one of the really kind of interesting things, is there's this, I think a general theory that, you know, anything in this environment needs to be really ruggedized and really specialized, and there's some value in that for certain things. But what we've seen so far is the students are excited to have the opportunity, and they treat those devices with a great deal of care. Honestly, the first device that I think we had to warranty out was a staff mistake of damaging it, not a student mistake. And so I think it's sort of just indicative of the fact that folks understand, hey, this is an investment in me, and so I want to be careful with it. I'm sure as time goes on, we'll see things happen here or there.


Kyle Kaminski [00:33:46]:

But it's really been positive to see that we can actually put a kind of full-service device into that setting and not have to worry about it immediately somehow being either misused or damaged. We just haven't seen that as our experience.


Jess Carter [00:34:02]:

That's great. I think for people who aren't familiar, have never known someone who's incarcerated. I think, again, there can just be so much fear about, in my words, are they bad, scary? Can they hurt me? They're safe if they're put away? I think the reality about recidivism and the reality about wanting people to become a functional member of society and recognizing that everybody makes mistakes, I think there's this empowerment in your program of helping people understand and destigmatize. These are human beings who've maybe made a mistake. Or also not had equitable opportunities sometimes, too. And so we all make mistakes, and we all get, hopefully, second chances. And I think it's empowering the way that this program is helping bring that about. And I think overcoming.


Jess Carter [00:35:00]:

I think the story is really powerful about how much fear could be around a technology implementation and how there are millions of citizens associated to potentially that fear. And so when you look at where you're at today, I think you've overcome an incredible amount of things to implement a program like this. I hope you and those around you feel really proud of what you've done. And one of the things I'm thinking is, if I'm another state and I want to do this, I don't know that every other state's done something like this. Do you have advice for, you know, I'm sure all of the other Kyles in other states are listening, and so what, like, what would you say to somebody who wants to take something like this on both from, how do they get the funding? How do they think about overcoming some of these challenges? How do they think about a partner? What. What advice would you give them?


Kyle Kaminski [00:35:51]:

So I give them a few pieces of advice. One, have a great leader like we have here in Michigan. Our director has been bold in just about every area that we can be. So she is the type that doesn't simply want us to do the work. She wants us to be the best at what we do. And that, you know, while that's a charge and it keeps you busy, it also gives you the opportunity to really strive and try some stuff that maybe in a less assertive or bold place, you would just say, well, I don't even know that I would want to spend time looking at that because no one above me would ever sign off on that. So I think that's, number one, is you have to have that bold leadership. Two, you got to find a great partner to work with.


Kyle Kaminski [00:36:37]:

And for us, that was Resultant. The reality is we could not have done this by ourselves. We wouldn't have even really known where to start. I mean, for us, the starting point was we want a stable network with a platform where we can do education. We have this kind of crazy long-term vision about getting it out of our classrooms. But, you know, where do we even start with this? And having a partner like Resultant who can both kind of fill in the blanks to say this is what's possible and not possible in conjunction with Google, and also to more or less say, yeah, we can, we can build this for you. Like, this is doable, which I know other states have pursued similar projects and are making great progress, but I think at the time we were having this conversation in Michigan, we were definitely one of the vanguard states, certainly not alone, but kind of in that first group of states that were really looking at this. So to find an outside partner who was so willing to work with us, to create something that worked for our very unique environment was key.


Kyle Kaminski [00:37:34]:

So I would say those are two key things. And then, you know, the third thing you kind of mentioned funding. I think it's important for policymakers, the public stakeholders, to understand people don't come into existence in prison. They were neighbors, they were family members, etcetera. And they have made decisions and choices that we shouldn't look beyond. They have to be addressed, and we don't want them, in most cases, to make those same decisions again in the future. But we all know from our own lives, how do you get the people around you making better decisions? Finding stability, finding success?


Kyle Kaminski [00:38:12]:

Education is the foundation of that. It's the foundation for anybody. If you ask them if somebody has children, they're going to say, I want them to have a great education. It should be the same for our fellow citizens. Okay. Yeah, they have. They are in the criminal justice system. They might be in the criminal justice system for very intentional acts that, quite honestly, tear at the fabric of the community.


Kyle Kaminski [00:38:37]:

But if we know they're coming back, because most are coming back to the community, why wouldn't you want to invest in preventing that in the future? And that's the other thing. I mean, we've talked a lot about education today and agency, but this is also crime prevention at a very basic level. This is crime. This is about preventing future crime. And so if you're talking to a legislator or, you know, a group that maybe isn't as sympathetic to the idea of education or the enrichment, and they're more, hey, look, we need a correction system that prevents crime. This does that as well. This is a way that you achieve that, is by making these types of investments.


Jess Carter [00:39:16]:

Wow, that is amazing advice. Then it sounded like you'd been on site recently. Is that right? Like you'd been able to kind of walk through something.


Ben Wories [00:39:24]:

Yeah, I had the. Kyle was very generous to host me in visiting. Being able to see the rooms that are being served with the system, be able to meet the students. It's a really awesome thing to see.


Jess Carter [00:39:37]:

Yeah. Okay. Was anything. Did anything surprise you?


Ben Wories [00:39:43]:

That's a good question. I think how much it felt like a technical college surprised me. You know, you go past the barbed wire, you go past the magnetic locks, and then you get onto this vocational village campus, and you're looking at the CNC routers and the large equipment, and it reminds me very much of visiting Ivy Tech campuses here in Indiana, and so being able to see what was really a learning environment that my own family is probably using the same type of experiences was really surprising. Yeah, it was a really great experience.


Jess Carter [00:40:22]:

That's awesome. Well, I am. Kyle, I'm so impressed and thankful that there are leaders like you at any state. I think when we talk about data-driven leadership, there's a reason why we don't just talk about cool data projects. We're focusing on the leadership component, too. And so I think your advice and guidance and your experience is just so relatable and valuable because every technology project has fears associated to it and stakeholders who need to be bought in. And you have really navigated us through some of those waters in a way that's extremely relatable and repeatable to solve for a whole bunch of other technology problems. Before I release you because you have such great advice, is there anything we haven't talked about around this project that we absolutely should? There might be a component I haven't known to ask about?


Kyle Kaminski [00:41:14]:

Well, I mean, I think we've covered a lot of ground. I don't know that there's really anything that we haven't covered, but I would just kind of come back to the fact that it does take a lot of very talented people to pull something like this off. So, you know, I'm in the enviable position of getting to talk about it and getting to, you know, see it and certainly promote it and champion it. But I'm also not the one that has to do all the hard work behind the scenes to actually make it happen. And so I'm appreciative to folks from my team, to folks from the result team from Google again, our partner state agency DTMB, because it did take a lot of folks and it took a lot of creativity, and it took a lot of communication and willingness to try things. But I think it showed ultimately that oftentimes in government you'll hear about like public/private partnerships and folks aren't quite sure what to make of those or how those always work. But to me this is like a textbook example of how you make that work for everyone's benefit. MDOC on its own could not have achieved this.


Kyle Kaminski [00:42:19]:

The State of Michigan on its own could not have achieved this. And at the same time, I don't think Resultant could have done this because they couldn't have gotten into our facilities without us. So it's one of those things where it really did require partnership in the best sense.


Jess Carter [00:42:34]:

Yeah, sorry, that was a funny image of us trying to break into a correctional facility.


Ben Wories [00:42:38]:

You must have Chromebooks! You must. 


Kyle Kaminski [00:42:40]:

You would have made the news. I assure you.


Ben Wories [00:42:48]:

I might have been let in soon after. Just a different capacity.


Kyle Kaminski [00:42:51]:

You know what?


Jess Carter [00:42:52]:



Ben Wories [00:42:53]:

Yeah, you can stay.


Jess Carter [00:42:55]:

Ben, any other things that you chime in on or anything? We haven't talked about that. We should.


Ben Wories [00:42:59]:

Well, you know, you talk a little bit about the case for funding and how compelling it is that this is crime prevention, and you articulate that so poignantly. That consensus building, that coalition building to get legislation bought in, to get the facilities bought in. I don't think that can be understated. That that role, that bringing these partners to bear and overcoming all of the fear and financial burdens, I don't think it could be understated at all. We talk a lot about data-driven leadership, and a lot of times when we're dealing with emotions like fear, data isn't always the first answer, just telling someone the facts. I'm curious, though, what role data has played in navigating that coalition building or bringing people.


Jess Carter [00:43:45]:

Great question.


Ben Wories [00:43:47]:

Is there some information that, as people are listening, might be useful for them to know and perhaps use to build similar coalitions in their communities?


Kyle Kaminski [00:43:59]:

Yeah, I mean, I think specific to correctional education and technology, I mean, the data. The most important data point is the effectiveness of it. And there's several studies out there. A lot of people point to a slightly older Rand study, but there's been more recent studies as well, that really show the return on investment from education, at whatever level, whether it's academic or secondary or current technical education for this population is really significant, which helps push decision makers on that idea that this is about value and it's about outcomes. We're not doing this just to do it. We're not doing it just to create an entertainment avenue for individuals. We're doing this so that our students in our facilities produce better outcomes for themselves and for their families. That's a key component of it.


Kyle Kaminski [00:44:47]:

I think it also, again, is key to really frame the challenge. And so I was very deliberate when I talked about the fact that 50% of the people who come into prison don't have a high school diploma or equivalency. Probably most people who aren't around this wouldn't expect that to be the number, but you need to frame it and come right out with that number, because if folks think that, oh, education is just maybe something they do on the margin in prison, it's maybe something they do with 5% of the folks that are incarcerated. No, it is very central to effective corrections, to have a very strong and diverse educational offering, because the need is very clearly there. I think that's really key. Then also tracking your outcomes, being able to say, hey, of the people who are completing these programs, this is what's happening with them. They're more likely to be employed.


Kyle Kaminski [00:45:40]:

They're less likely to return to prison. Maybe you have some data around starting wages for those that have done a career technical education program. Those are all really key for decision makers. I don't know. I suspect in other states it's the same. But really, in Michigan, over the last decade, state government has become much more focused on measuring what we do and being able to describe the value of it. And so I think these types of projects are key in part because as we're doing this, we're also creating new data. We can see things.


Kyle Kaminski [00:46:12]:

We can see how engaged the students are, how often they're using these things. We can talk about who's accessing certain programs or certain curriculums. And so we're actually building the next set of data for the next set of discussions in the future.


Jess Carter [00:46:24]:

What a great point. I mean, when you talk about the entities and stakeholders, you were what you're, you're going from, you know, most other people working on a project have a dataset. It's unbelievable to think about the fact that you're saying, hey, when you're actually in classrooms, it's fine. It's great. It's actually really, really valuable when it comes to creating a dataset that is as broad and as substantial as this is and measuring outcomes. You can go anywhere from here when it comes to, we can start looking at efficacy. You can start tailoring your funding and your programs for better outcomes. I mean, it's just, it's just neat to me to see all the different ways I say, like, that you can drive this car because you now have data that you didn't have before.


Jess Carter [00:47:05]:

Thank you guys for listening. I'm your host, Jess Carter. Don't forget to follow Data-Driven Leadership wherever you get your podcasts and rate and review letting us know how these topics are transforming your business and your priorities. We can't wait for you to join us on the next episode.

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