On Thursday, the federal government announced a new program that will help to provide new options for inmates seeking employment after release. The program will provide up to $10 million in funds to a variety of different states including four $500,000 grants in California and multiple grants in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
After leaving prison, many inmates have difficulties finding employment. Having a criminal history is not the only obstacle they have to overcome. Prisoners can develop everything from post traumatic stress to drug addictions while incarcerated, not to mention the variety of issues they may already have been dealing with that led to their incarceration to begin with. This, combined with a lack of educational opportunities and limited networking capabilities that are crucial in today’s job market, leave inmates with few options.
Unable to find employment, they often find themselves forced to resort to the same criminal behaviors that landed them in prison in the first place. According to the Bureau of Justice, over two-thirds of prisoners released in more than half of U.S. states were arrested for a new crime within three years. That number rises to over three-quarters after five years.
With over 9 million convicts released from local jails every year, finding employment for them is a pressing issue that cannot be ignored. The program is currently being tested on a limited basis. 20 different communities were selected from a pool of 58 applicants, and job centers will be opened in each of them. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez believes that the program will do more than simply put them back on their feet and push people back into their communities.
Job centers will provide new options for correctional officers working with prisoners to develop interviewing skills and pursue potential employment after release. Current funding is designed to help get these centers functioning and to evaluate what kind of efforts will be necessary to keep the programs running in the years to come.