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Baltimore’s Connections Project Applies a Racial Equity Lens to Economic Opportunity for Homeless Jobseekers

By: Kyle Pierce, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

father and daughters

To wrap up our Connections Project blog series, the National Initiatives team chatted with Hannah Roberts, who coordinates Baltimore’s Journey to Jobs project. Looking at homelessness through a racial equity lens, Journey to Jobs aims to increase economic opportunity for homeless jobseekers by tackling two barriers to employment that disproportionally impact people of color: criminal records and child support payments.  In our conversation, Hannah shares how she’s working with Baltimore’s Connections Project team to develop savvy partnerships, gather data, and shape system-wide collaboration to expand employment and economic opportunity for Baltimore’s homeless jobseekers.

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To Avoid Reincarceration, Mothers Need Support and Employment

By Jeanne E. Murray, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Ardella

This Mother’s Day, we want to recognize incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women with children. Women represent the fastest growing population in prison. Over the last 30 years, the female prison population has grown by over 800 percent, and more than 60 percent of women prisoners are parents to children under age 18. Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women are likely to have low educational attainment and experience mental health or substance use issues, and many are survivors of domestic violence. These barriers, combined with long gaps in work history and the stigma of a criminal record, can make it difficult for formerly incarcerated women to find and keep jobs once they’re back home. To help these women stay out of prison and successfully reenter their communities, it’s critical that employment services be a part of the programming that formerly incarcerated women receive.

Ardella’s House in Philadelphia aims to reduce recidivism by helping women successfully transition back into their communities. Ardella’s House provides women support and guidance along with addressing their career placement and vocational and educational training needs. This month, the National Initiatives team spoke with Tonie Willis, the Director of Ardella’s House, to discuss the important issues facing women who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated—including getting and keeping jobs.

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To Be Smart on Crime, We Need To Be Smart on Employment

By Caitlin C. Schnur, Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Photo via The Wall Street Journal

Photo via The Wall Street Journal

With the recently-launched Coalition for Public Safety and increasing congressional chatter about prison reform, making the nation’s criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more cost effective is a rising priority—and it should be. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Our country has only five percent of the world’s population but one quarter of its prisoners, and a disproportionate percentage of those prisoners are men of color. Many of these prisoners will return to their communities. In 2010, about 10 percent of nonincarcerated men—and 25 percent of nonincarcerated black men—had a felony conviction. At the same time, our prison system has a revolving door: more than half of returning citizens will be imprisoned again within five years.

Mass incarceration inflicts a high cost on taxpayers, communities, and families alike. We need strategies that will help prevent criminal justice system involvement and reduce reincarceration—and the research continues to demonstrate that access to employment and education can do just that. Here’s why and how efforts to reform the criminal justice system should leverage employment strategies to counter mass incarceration and reduce recidivism.

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Innovations in Child Support Policy: 3 Ways to Increase Employment + Economic Opportunity for Noncustodial Parents

By James Jones, B.MORE Initiative Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

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In 1995, President William “Bill” Clinton proclaimed August National Child Support Awareness Month.  The goal was to raise awareness about the critical role child support plays in the lives of millions of American children.  Clinton was responding to a social problem that appeared to be on the rise.  In the mid-nineties, there was a growing percentage of single parent households in America and children in those households had a high chance of suffering from poverty. Today, almost two decades later, the child support program serves half of all poor children in the country and 17 million children in total.

While many noncustodial parents want to be involved with their children, many also live in poverty and lack the resources to financially provide for their children. Most unpaid child support is owed by these parents and for many the lack of steady income is a major barrier to fulfilling parental obligations.  At the same time, child support payments represent a significant portion of the income of families living in poverty.  Oftentimes, these payments are responsible for keeping children out of extreme poverty.

The National Initiatives on Poverty and Economic Opportunity team is focused on developing and expanding sustainable policy solutions that benefit children and increase employment and economic opportunities for low-income noncustodial parents.  To that end, this July we led a strategic policy/advocacy planning and campaign development summit with our partners at Connections to Success (CtS) in Missouri and Kansas.  Working with Connections’ leadership and program staff, we equipped them to identify and advance child support policies in Missouri that could better support low-income, noncustodial fathers’ efforts to access employment opportunities, support their children, and advance in the labor market.  Drawing from our training with CtS, in this blog we’re highlighting three child support policy innovations that would increase employment and economic opportunity for low-income parents.

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How America Can Do More to Help Black Men Returning Home from Prison Find Jobs: Reflections on RecycleForce’s Trip to Capitol Hill

By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow

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 “In the summer of 2012, I had just been released from federal prison. I was staying in a halfway house and job hunting, but I really couldn’t come up with any work…It’s so hard to come home from prison and it shouldn’t be…A couple of men at the halfway house stumbled across RecycleForce and told me about it…RecycleForce took a chance with me and I pretty much try to take advantage of every opportunity they’ve given me.” — Robert Perry, RecycleForce

As March came to a close, RecycleForce staff, including former program participant Robert Perry, met up with the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) team in Washington, D.C. We were there to support the B.MORE Initiative’s efforts to champion policies that open doors to employment and economic advancement for low-income black men.  Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, RecycleForce provides people returning home from incarceration with transitional jobs (TJ) in its revenue-generating recycling business and provides comprehensive supportive services so that returning citizens can overcome barriers to employment and successfully reenter their communities.

Robert Perry, a former RecycleForce program participant and now the organization’s Shipping and Receiving Coordinator, was integral in showing Indiana’s Congressional delegates why it’s important that they put their support behind employment programs and policies like banning the box that help low-income black men succeed in work.

In meetings with legislators in D.C., Robert was courageous enough to share the struggles he faced finding a job when he returned home from incarceration and how RecycleForce helped him become employed and advance in the workplace.  In this interview, Robert opens up again to share RecycleForce’s impact on his life, reflect on his time in D.C., and make the case for why “banning the box” can help ensure that everyone who wants to work can find a job.

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