The Department of Labor recently announced it will be awarding over $30 million in grants to a dozen community-based organizations offering employment training, education and other services to formerly incarcerated women and juveniles.
Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris released a statement explaining that “For formerly incarcerated women and young people, reintegrating with society can be difficult. With the right support system, however, this transition can be made smoother and more successful.” He described the grants as am important tool to “help prepare these women and young people for employment and a fresh start in life.” Workers rights advocates and labor law attorneys have also been enthusiastic supporters of the programs.
Four grants amounting to nearly $20 million will go to incarcerated youth (from age 14 up) who live in communities with high poverty and crime rates. Those overseeing the grants will work to make sure the youth succeed in jobs by giving them job training and other forms of more general education leading to high school diplomas and professional or trade-related credentials. The grants focus on building skills in high-demand sectors and occupations that can be attained within their immediate communities, which reduces the inconvenience (and unlikelihood) or relocating for jobs. This set of grants will serve an estimated 4,100 youth in 30 communities across the U.S.
The other 8 grants amount to $12 million and will be used in service of youth and adult offenders who show characteristics generally found among female former offenders. The grants are aimed at providing employment services and other forms of support to aid participants in surviving common traumas like physical and sexual abuse, domestic turmoil, substance abuse and poor mental health, along with other obstacles to reintegrating in society. Grantees are required to develop an integrated approach that would include education, personal empowerment, self-development and professional development. While women with criminal records are the target group for these grants, the services may also be used to help male ex-offenders.
A similar program was implemented in 1998 with extraordinary success. Yet when a 17-year old boy was severely injured on the job and filed a high-profile, million dollar third party liability claim against one of the grantee partners (eventually involving the Department of Labor in the lawsuit as well), the program began to receive bad press, and has struggled to find funding in more recent years.
For additional information, visit the Department of Labor website to read about their Reintegration of Ex-Offender training programs.