The U.S. Department of Labor is awarding $59 million in grants to organizations improving employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated youth and adults — including one in Indianapolis.
WorkForce, Inc., which now operates as RecycleForce, in Indianapolis received a grant for more than $1.3 million. The company provides transitional jobs to formerly incarcerated adults for up to six months. During that time, the employees gain job skills and receive addiction, counseling, housing and other services to help them re-enter society.
Gregg Keesling, president of RecycleForce, says the grant money will allow them to strengthen their training program, which will allow their workers to find jobs with higher wages.
Keesling says it’s important to connect men and women leaving prison with jobs and opportunities as a way to quell the staggering incarceration rates in the United States.
“We’re a forgiving nation, people deserve second chances and most will successfully take advantage of that second chance,” Keesling says. “As a society, we all need to stop turning our back on these people.”
The Department of Labor’s grant funds are mostly going to organizations in communities with high poverty and crime rates, as well as areas designated Promise Zones by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Near Eastside community in Indianapolis was designated a Promise Zone by the Obama administration in April.
The so-called Promise Zones partner with local organizations and businesses to create jobs and help improve the lifestyle and increase economic security in the communities.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez says providing job skills and services to those leaving prison reduces recidivism rates and increases public safety.
“The nation is better off if people coming out of prison can access tools to make a living and support their families through hard work and personal responsibility,” Perez says.