Labor Department Releases $74 Million Grants to Help Ex-Offenders


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The U.S. Department of Labor. (Courtesy Photo)

The U.S. Department of Labor is releasing $74 million in grants to be invested in reintegration services for ex-felons and juvenile offenders, the department announced June 19.

The goal, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in a statement, is to “help ex-offenders turn around their lives and get back on their feet.” He added that the money will fund the agency’s Face Forward and Training to Work programs, initiatives already underway in communities where ex-offenders need help in orienting themselves to post-incarceration life.

The grants, he said, “will continue to build on this success by expanding services to even more people who want to make a successful transition back into their communities.”

According to the Center for the Study of Social Policy, ex-offenders face substantial barriers when trying to reintegrate into their communities after release, including lack of access to education, vocational training, gainful employment, housing, substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

Ex-offenders—disproportionately Black males—faced with such daunting odds often turn back to what they know, crime, leading to startling recidivism rates.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ study on recidivism among state prisoners released in 30 states in 2005, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) were arrested for a new crime within three years, and three-quarters (76.6 percent) were arrested within five years.

“With more than half a million people being released from state and federal prisons each year, re-entry job training programs like the ones the Labor Department is funding today are a key part of ensuring people coming out of prison have the opportunity to learn the skills they need to successfully re-enter their communities,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole in a statement.

“Given that many of these individuals have limited skills and inadequate education, we cannot simply release them and expect that they will, on their own, be able to rebuild their lives and get a job with a livable wage. That’s why programs such as these are so important to ensuring they get a helping hand and a genuine chance to succeed.”

Grantees are expected to provide a range of services that include case management, mentoring, education and training that leads to industry-recognized credentials.

Twenty-one grants, totaling more than $44 million, will be awarded for the second round of the Face Forward initiative. The program combines best practices in workforce and juvenile justice strategies, including sealing juvenile justice records and handling juvenile delinquency complaints outside the court system, to improve participants’ chances of success.

The other 30 million will go to 17 organizations through the Training to Work — Adult Reentry program, which will help men and women participating in state or local work-release programs gain the job skills and credentials necessary to succeed in-demand occupations upon rejoining society.

Both grant programs target areas with high poverty and high crime, including cities like New Orleans, Chicago and Newark, N.J.

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