LUDLOW — From the moment inmates are incarcerated in the Hampden County Correctional Center system, the Sheriff’s Department is preparing them to get out — and stay out.

Employment is key.

Shortly after they arrive, inmates get a manila folder for the vocational certificates and résumés they will be pushed to complete behind bars. Many earn the right to finish their sentences while living at home or in unlocked facilities, often holding down full-time jobs in the community. Once they are released, the ex-offenders have access to a support center in Springfield staffed by Sheriff’s Department employees and community service providers who help them with food stamps and housing, as well as haircuts, interview suits, and other resources.

Hampden County is often held up as a national model for rehabilitating inmates. Pioneered by social worker-turned-county sheriff Michael Ashe, the program focuses on preparing inmates to join the workforce, often for the first time, while addressing mental illness, substance abuse, and other needs. Governor Charlie Baker recently proposed spending $1 million to expand the Western Massachusetts re-entry model statewide.

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