Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL)




This paper examines the obstacles that released inmates face in gaining employment and being successfully employed, how these obstacles might be overcome, studies and recommendations in the area of correctional education, and the role education and prison employment play in reducing recidivism. It further relates these topics to the leadership and training and employment focus of Stillwater Systems, Inc. (SSI), a non-profit, self-sustaining, company that operates inside the confines of the Lino Lakes Correctional Facility, Lino Lakes, Minnesota. Effective and visionary leadership in this complex and unique business setting is crucial to the survival of Stillwater Systems. The style and theory of leadership practiced by those individuals with primary leadership in the company were analyzed in this study. They include the SSI Board of Directors members, the inmate workers, the SSI executive director, the CEO of Stillwater Systems Partners (a SSI marketing and project management partner), and the author, in her role as chair of the executive director search committee. The author concluded that one-size leadership does not fit all. The Board of Directors contributes to the organization through a servant leadership model. The current SSI president practices situational leadership in meeting the demands of her varied constituents. A new executive director is being hired for SSI, and he/she is expected to also build effective relationships through situational leadership. The author called upon collaborative leadership to chair the Board committee engaged in sourcing and selecting a new executive director for the organization. The Stillwater Systems Partners' CEO is a transformational leader who is moving the new organization from a nonprofit entity to a for-profit organization that will contract with SSI for progranrming services and products. She faces the challenge of helping the released inmates transition from a total institution where any demonstration of leadership is discouraged to the for-profit world where it is expected. Two conclusions emerged from this analysis: 1) that the inmate workers do not have access to adequate critical thinking or problem-solving skills training. Upon release, they will enter the white-collar work world which represents a complete paradigm shift from that of the total institution, and 2) many of the inmate workers lack the skills uecessiry to identify the norns, values, and other nuances of organizational culture that they will encounter either as employees or as consultants-skills that will be important for their success outside the institution. Management of the company is currently undergoing a major restructuring to provide for growth of the inmate employee population. The leadership practiced by the Board must evolve to a higher level of seruant and collaborative leadership in order to accomplish that growth and continue tofulfill SSI's mission. One recommendation is that organization leaders work together to identify and introduce critical thinking and problem solving skills training along with life or social skills training as a required element of the curriculum. A second recommendation involves sharing best practices and development of a working relationship with a nonprofit organization that trains and mentors youthful offenders at the Hennepin County Home School located in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.


SC 11.MAL.1999.Seiler.CJ