Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of millions of dollars in grant funds that are earmarked for job training and life enrichment skills for ex-offenders returning to impoverished and high crime rate communities.
Under a longstanding provision under President Barack Obama’s highly touted Workforce Investment Act, dozens of federal grants are awarded annually through a competitive process to various nonprofit and faith-based community organizations. Among other guidelines, applicants for the grants must be 18 years of age or older and have been convicted of a felony under federal or state law. In a statement released to the media, Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez promoted the Obama Administration’s commitment to decreasing the rate of recidivism and promoting the successful reintegration and acclimation of ex-offenders into society. “Stable employment helps ex-offenders stay out of the legal system,” he said.
According to various statistics, on average, more than 650,000 inmates are released from state and federal prisons each year—about three out of five ex-offenders will be charged with new crimes within three years of their release from prison and will be re-incarcerated.
Advocates for prisoner re-entry options, laud the grant funding initiative from the Department of Labor and contend that unskilled and unemployed ex-offenders are most vulnerable to recidivism. “Ex-offenders have to be given a second chance with basic skills training and steady unemployment,” said Glenn Martin, president and founder of JustLeadershipUSA in New York. The nonprofit agency, among other things, advocates for legislation reform and the fair treatment of formerly incarcerated men and women. Martin spent more than five years as an inmate at an upstate New York prison in the 1990’s. He said by offering job training and access to capital in order to create legitimate business enterprises to ex-offenders, national recidivism rates will decrease and lead to a decrease in the prison population. “Someone’s past should not be a barrier to a their future,” Martin said in an interview with TNJ.com. “It’s frustrating being turned down for job after job once someone’s past record is discovered.”
Martin encourages ex-offenders to develop a solid business plan and to become involved in mentoring and personal enrichment organizations such as his—JustLeadershipUsa and others like the Fortune Society. “These organizations will help guide you through the grant process and help you move forward in securing the funds to start your business,” he said.