Reintegrating Ex-Offenders into the Workforce: DOL Awards New Grants

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced that they are providing almost $32 million of grant money through the Reintegration of Ex-Offender training program (RExO) to aid in reducing recidivism in young adults and women.

A 1994 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), regarding the rate of recidivism indicated that an estimated 67.5% of 272,111 persons released from prisons in 15 states, were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years.

The “why” has prompted much debate as well as numerous programs to ameliorate the issue. In this newest effort by the DOL, 12 faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs), are receiving the funds to aid in reintegrating “formerly incarcerated youth, ages 14 and above, in high-poverty, high-crime communities” and “youths and adults who demonstrate characteristics most common to female former offenders.”

As ex-offenders return, the RExO program is a concerted effort of numerous federal agencies to benefit both the community and the returning inmate by affording some of the tools and support that can precipitate a successful reintegration.

Some of the data that has been compiled from RExO predecessor, Ready4Work, suggest that it is model that can be a successful one when compared to benchmarks posited in the previously mentioned BJS report.  

One of the key program components is the employment piece. In the overview of the RExO program, it stipulates on the DOL page: “Employment is a critical stabilizing factor for ex-offenders.” Attorney General Eric Holder went further explaining that “expanding access to job training programs and educational opportunities is a proven strategy for reducing recidivism and preventing crime.”

As indicated, research studies confirm a direct correlation between employment and recidivism in ex-offenders…those who are gainfully employed become re-incarcerated far less often than those who are not employed.  Thus, if  we are truly concerned about keeping ex-offenders out of jail, our workforce development system must be committed to helping them find…and more importantly, keep…gainful employment. Helping an ex-offender get a job is of little importance if that person lacks the skills, particulaly those descibed as “soft skills”, necessary to keep the job.  This is the principle underlying the success of the CTWorks Employment-Retention Program in the Greater Hartford area of Connecticut, operated by KRA Corporation on behalf of our client, Capital Workforce Partners.

KRA is pleased to note that the RExO initiative goes beyond  job placement. The successful transition back into society incorporates many other factors. As well as in helping to find employment, there are mentoring programs and vocational trainings as well as educational offerings.  It also aims at addressing and overcoming other hurdles, especially with regards to life traumas including factors ranging from physical and psychological abuse to family upheavals.

The KRA team congratulates those organizations who received the grants, and we wish them all the best in the successful implementation of their programs as they attempt to help ex-offenders transition back successfully into our communities.