Secretary Tom Perez toured the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Maryland, in 2014 to get a first-hand look at educational programs at the facility that promote rehabilitation. Those programs have served as a model in other prisons around the country.

Second Chances Through the Promise of Good Jobs

More than 9 million people are released from county and local jails every year, and they often face extraordinary challenges in reintegrating into society and obtaining and retaining employment.

Helping individuals successfully return to their communities helps us all. If we want to ensure the strongest possible workforce for the economy of the future, we must tap the talents of all our people — including those who have been involved in the criminal justice system. If you’ve been to prison and paid your debt to society, you shouldn’t have to face the additional struggle of a dead-end job search.

Our Reentry Employment Opportunities (formerly RExO) program provides education and career services to people involved in the criminal justice system.

“Never in my life did I imagine I would become a supervisor after prison on any job; nor, did I ever dream I would be enrolled in college pursuing a degree. Without this program, I know my life would not have been this successful.”

— Fletcher Strong, a participant in the Dannon Project, which received a Labor Department grant

These programs are a win-win-win. They help people put their lives back together and reintegrate in their communities. They’re a smart public safety strategy, because the best anti-recidivism strategy is a good job earning a good wage. And they give employers greater access to skilled workers.

Businesses like Freedman Seating Co. understand employees will be loyal to a company that’s taken a chance on them. It’s not about providing charity, as Secretary Tom Perez noted − it’s an act of enlightened self-interest for the company and the community.

“There are hundreds of unfilled jobs in advanced manufacturing because the skills are not there,” said company President Craig Freedman. “We will take anyone that is willing to work and train them. For us, it has been a tremendous success.”
Deputy Secretary Chris Lu visits RecycleForce in Indiana, July 2015

RecycleForce, a company that employs higher risk offenders, sees itself as a successful business with a social mission: “Our social mission, to ensure that those leaving prison have every opportunity to successfully reintegrate into our community — is fully integrated with our recycling business,” shared president Gregg Keesling.

In November 2015, President Obama announced new steps to promote rehabilitation and reintegration for the formerly incarcerated, highlighting the department’s Training to Work grant competition as an initiative to help reduce barriers to employment. In 2016, the Employment and Training Administration will award grants to expand access to tech jobs and other high-growth occupations for adults returning from correctional facilities.

Secretary Perez with former inmate Scott Farina at a correctional facility in Pennsylvania that a job training program for inmates that prepares them for life after release. Thanks to the program, Scott was re-hired by his former employer.

We also introduced the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release program, or LEAP, to provide employment services to incarcerated men and women while they’re still serving their terms, so they can hit the ground running after they’re released. In suburban Philadelphia, the Montgomery County Correctional Facility is implementing this model with the help of a 2015 LEAP grant.

For one inmate there, it’s not just about opportunity — it’s about dignity. “It’s an honor to be recognized instead of always being called names,” he said. “It’s an honor to be looked at as someone other than a criminal.”
Chaniqua Granberry

We’re also committed to removing barriers to employment for young people like Chaniqua Granberry who have become involved in the juvenile justice system. Thanks to the Face Forward program, which is funded by a Labor Department grant, she is a full-time student in the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology’s accelerated nursing program, and works two part-time jobs to support herself.

Together with our state and local partners, and employers like Freedman Seating Co. and RecycleForce, we can empower our communities to give the next generation hope for the future.

Learn more about our reentry programs here. For more information about job training opportunities or help changing careers, visit CareerOneStop.org to explore resources available in your community.

This post is part of our “Working for You” series, highlighting how the Department of Labor, and the efforts of the Obama administration, are helping hardworking Americans succeed. View them all atwww.medium.com/workingforyou.

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