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DOJ and Labor Dep't collaborate on incarceration to employment plan

The Biden administration is launching a comprehensive incarceration-to-employment strategy aimed at expanding hiring and advancement opportunities for formerly incarcerated persons.

The strategy, meant to serve as a roadmap for state and local governments, employers, philanthropies, and communities to follow, was contained in a briefing paper published last week.

It involves a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor and a $145 million investment to provide job training at selected Bureau of Prisons locations and intensive individualized reentry support.

“A good job and supportive services are not only critical to successful reentry for formerly incarcerated persons, but also to promoting public safety and improving economic well-being in American communities,” the paper said.

Training and education is centered around both pre- and post-release planning in order to enhance and strengthen employment opportunities and outcomes for people returning from incarceration and to assist formerly incarcerated persons with all aspects of the job search experience.

Pre-release strategizing involves individualized reentry planning that begins no later than 18 months prior to release for those serving longer sentences including assessing housing and homelessness risk.

It also includes providing behavioral therapy needs and trauma support; ensuring availability of education resources and career counseling; and providing mentoring, job search assistance, and support while on the initial job, as well as access to “know your rights” resources on workplace rights and protections.

Post-release support is dependent upon the assistance of local reentry and workforce organizations, and state and local government agencies, to provide formerly incarcerated persons with all aspects of the job search experience, including: writing resumes, conducting job searches, counseling on career options, completing applications, and preparing for interviews.

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Other recommendations for state, local, and community governments and organizations include, but are not limited to:

    • Providing pathways into long-term employment by establishing paid internships, temporary/seasonal employment, fellowships, and apprenticeships;
    • Specifying openness to qualified candidates with arrest or conviction records in job listings;
    • Fully implementing “ban the box” policies with other strategies, including training interviewers, supervisors, and hiring officials on how to mitigate bias in the application, interview, and hiring phases; and establishing partnerships with and investing in local reentry and workforce organizations that can help to identify, recruit, and empower this pool of workers through the job search and hiring process.

Lastly, the Biden administration’s strategy also stresses the importance of partnerships between local correctional facilities and unions and trade associations to provide in-demand training, pre-apprenticeships, and registered apprenticeships, and evolve their membership criteria to reduce or remove any unnecessary barriers to formerly incarcerated persons who seek to join their ranks.

Deputy editor of The Crime Report

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