Communities benefit when formerly incarcerated individuals are able to effectively reintegrate into their neighborhoods. But all too often, people who have been convicted of crimes face difficult employment challenges when they are released. Two out of three incarcerated adults had jobs before they went to jail, but we’ve seen that incarceration can reduce their earning potential by as much as 40 percent when they get out.
If people are unable to secure jobs when they are released from incarceration, they cannot support themselves or their families – and there’s an increased chance that they will return to a life of crime. Nationally, recidivism rates are substantial, but for participants in the Labor Department’s Reintegration of Ex-Offenders program, the recidivism rate is just 14 percent. This initiative’s success is something we’re proud of – and poised to build upon.
With this goal in mind, today, the Labor Department announced the availability of approximately $12 million in grants to provide workforce development and support services for formerly incarcerated adult and youth females as they make the transition from correctional facilities back to their communities. The programs funded through the grant announcement will help make this difficult transition smoother and more productive, resulting in more stable families and brighter futures.
Grantees must provide participants with services – including job training – that will lead to:
- Credentials in high-demand industries;
- Employment preparation;
- Mentoring and assistance in connecting to supportive services; and
- Assistance with parenting and child reunification.
Already, the Justice Department, through the Second Chance Act, has awarded grants to more than 370 organizations across the country to provide a range of services that can help reduce recidivism, including substance abuse treatment, family programming, and mentoring. Today’s grant announcement will continue this momentum, and help to expand on the robust efforts that are underway in so many communities across the country.
Helping to reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals is a priority for the Administration – one we’re backing up with a government-wide effort supported by the Federal Interagency Reentry Council. With strong leadership from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, the council brings together 20 federal agencies to develop plans to make communities safer, to assist individuals returning to communities from prison or jail in becoming productive taxpaying citizens, and to save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.
A key product of the Reentry Council is a series of “Reentry Myth Busters” – one-pagers designed to clarify existing federal policies and point people to resources that can be helpful. Five of the MythBusters have to do with employment issues, tackling both employer obligations and incentives. On the incentives side, the DOL offers both tax credits and federal bonding protection for employers who hire people with a criminal record. Additional Myth Busters offer guidance to both employers and job seekers on the appropriate use of criminal records in the hiring process.
As part of this initiative, last summer we hosted a roundtable at the Labor Department focused on strategies for securing suitable employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. Today’s grant announcement is one of the many ways in which we are taking action to fulfill the goals of that meeting.
Among the core promises of America’s justice system is the notion that those who serve their time deserve a second chance to make a positive contribution to American society. In realizing this promise, it’s essential to ensure that returning citizens are given the opportunity to make an honest living and become productive members of their communities.
Full eligibility information about the grant can be viewed online at http://www.doleta.gov/grants/find_grants.cfm.
For more information on the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, please visit http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/reentry-council
Hilda Solis is the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Eric Holder is the U.S. Attorney General.