As part of an overall effort to deal with inequities in the justice system, the White House announced, on April 26, 2022, a series of initiatives to support the reentry of formerly incarcerated persons into the workforce. At the same time news came that President Biden had pardoned three individuals and shortened the sentences of 75 others. These actions were all taken during Second Chance Month, an annual event seeking to “unlock opportunities for the tens of millions of Americans with a criminal record who have paid their debt to society.”
The initiatives, under the banner “Incarceration to Employment,” were launched in order to “break the cycle of crime, and allow law enforcement to focus their time and resources on the most pressing threats to public safety,” according to a statement from the White House.
- The White House has announced a series of initiatives to help formerly incarcerated persons reenter the workforce.
- The $145 million, first-ever collaborative effort aimed at Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmates is led by the Departments of Justice and Labor.
- The DOL and SBA will provide expanded access to jobs and loans.
- The SSA, VA, and BOP plan to offer outreach to recently incarcerated veterans.
- HHS and HUD both plan 6-month post-release sign-up opportunities.
- The Department of Education will expand its Second Chance Pell Grant initiative and employers will have new information about federal reentry programs and tax incentives.
Incarceration to Employment Initiatives
The Incarceration-to-Employment strategy employs an extensive list of initiatives covering pre-release education, reentry planning, skills-based job attainment, post-release employment, and additional supportive services outlined below.
The amount allocated by the Departments of Justice and Labor to provide job skills training for inmates in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities.
Historic $145 Million Collaboration Between DOJ and DOL
Headlining these efforts is a collaborative effort between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Labor (DOL) to invest $145 million in job skills training and tailored employment plans over FY22 and FY23 for people incarcerated in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities . As part of the DOJ’s implementation of the First Step Act, the initiative also marks the first time the DOL will offer job training and reentry support to federal prisoners.
In addition to training and employment efforts, the program, funded mostly by grants, also aims to provide support to help former inmates reenter society following release through comprehensive strategies designed to lower recidivism rates. The Incarceration to Employment strategy will require comprehensive, personalized, and evidence-based services to help previously incarcerated persons attain stable, quality employment upon release.
The number of people released from prison every year, a number dwarfed by the 9 million individuals who cycle through local jails—many of whom become repeat offenders.
Expanded access to jobs and loans
Two new programs—Growth Opportunities and Pathway Home—spearheaded by the DOL will provide $140 million in grants to help create job opportunities for youth, and young adults as well as job training and counseling for adults.
Additionally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) plans to remove barriers to loan eligibility based on irrelevant criminal history records. Removing barriers to federal employment will also be the goal of proposed regulations from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The Department of Transportation will expand access to jobs for formerly incarcerated persons and historically marginalized populations in programs such as RAISE Grants, INFRA Grants, and the Port Infrastructure Development Program.
Support for Veterans
The Social Security Administration (SSA), in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the BOP, will automate information-sharing among all three agencies to accelerate the restoration of benefits while reducing the administrative burden on veterans. The VA also announced it would increase the number of state prisons and jails that use its Veterans Reentry Search Service, which helps identify veterans in their custody and connect them with reentry services.
Expanded Healthcare and Housing
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to establish a six-month post-release Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for people who missed enrollment while incarcerated. This would reduce gaps in coverage and late enrollment penalties.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) initiated a 6-month comprehensive review of its existing regulations and guidance to ascertain how HUD programs could increase their inclusivity of people with arrest and conviction records.
The US Department of Education (ED) plans to expand by 73 schools its Second Chance Pell Initiative which provides Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals to participate in postsecondary education programs. Other planned changes include helping incarcerated individuals get out of loan default to access Pell Grants, consolidate loans, and avoid being turned away because of defaulted loans.
A Digital Equity Planning Grant from the Department of Commerce will provide $60 million for investments in digital literacy and equity programs that include incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons.
Resources for Employers
Employers will have new resources from DOL to help them learn about federal reentry employment incentives including the Federal Bonding Program and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), in partnership with the Council of State Governments (CSG), launched Reentry 2030, a campaign to set public reentry goals for those exiting prison, parole, or probation by 2030.
The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) launched the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Reentry Toolkit for local reentry coalition leaders and community leaders to allow assessment of existing reentry efforts and opportunities to strengthen outcomes for incarcerated persons in their communities. The NRRC will also continue to host its searchable database of reentry resources.