The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has made available $20.6 million in grants to help former criminal offenders become reacclimated to society and the workplace. Funds will be distributed to non-profit organizations that are either located within or maintain staffs consisting of employees who live in high-crime, high-poverty areas. The federal grants will be used to address the needs of eligible individuals in regard to employment services and support.
Individuals qualifying for employment aid must be at least 18 years old and have been convicted of a non-sex related crime, except prostitution. Additionally, an individual’s crime and conviction must have occurred during adulthood. The DOL has already released over $1.21 million in grants to 17 non-profit organizations focused on assisting at-risk individuals return to the workplace.
Grantees will be required to perform a variety of training and preparation services. These activities include task-specific job training, mentoring, networking to give support for an individual’s efforts to find jobs and housing arrangements, substance abuse programs, and mental health services. The grants are a feature of a long running federal program called the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders-Adult Program, formerly known as the Prisoner Re-entry Initiative.
In the words of Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, the goal of the program is to “[turn] ‘tax takers’ into ‘tax payers’.” The federal grants help ease the economic burden placed on states attempted to assist the 700,000 inmate who are released from prisons annually. Without assistance, recidivism levels remain high as former offenders find it difficult to assimilate into a lawful lifestyle due to a lack of skills and support that they require in order to obtain jobs.