By Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
On April 20, The New York Times published a powerful piece arguing that the use of jail to pressure parents to pay child support traps low-income, noncustodial parents in “in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.” We agree—and that’s why we’re thrilled that today, The Times printed our Letter to the Editor lifting up employment, not incarceration, as a way to help low-income parents support their families and meet their own needs. We hope you’ll read—and share!—our piece.
“This is Way Bigger than Me”: Connections to Success’ Damion Alexander Reflects on His Visit to Capitol Hill
At the end of February, staff and program participants from Connections to Success joined the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) in Washington, D.C., to support our B.MORE Initiative in opening doors to employment and economic advancement for low-income black men. Together, we made the rounds on Capitol Hill, speaking to delegates from Missouri and Kansas about how Connections to Success helps individuals with barriers to employment, including many African American men returning home from incarceration, transform their lives and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Damion Alexander, a Life Transformation Coach and Trainer at Connections to Success, played a central role in showing members of Congress how important it is for them to champion policies and programs that advance economic opportunity and strengthen families by helping low-income black men succeed in employment.
In this interview, Damion—who was on his first trip to D.C.—discusses the impact of his time on Capitol Hill; makes a policy pitch for reducing state-owed child support debts; and shares why he made a special stop at the Lincoln Memorial while exploring the city.
By Caitlin Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow, NTJN
with Jonathan Philipp, Research and Policy Assistant, NTJN
In recognition of Black History Month, this February the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) will produce a series of blogs related to Black Male Achievement. To kick off our blog series, we talked with Carl Chadband, Chief Operating Officer of KISRA (the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, Inc.) and a member of our B.MORE Initiative’s Community of Practice.
Located in Dunbar, West Virginia, KISRA operates education, employment, economic empowerment, and behavioral health programming for low- and moderate-income individuals and families in several West Virginia counties. While Carl oversees almost all of KISRA’s operations in his role as Chief Operating Officer, he is especially committed to opening doors to employment and economic advancement for low-income black men, including black men returning from incarceration.
In this conversation, Carl discusses the power of entrepreneurship for black men; shares the importance of guaranteeing the full rights of citizenship to people returning home from incarceration; and explains why even human rights champion Mahatma Gandhi might face chronic unemployment today.
Exploring a New Resource: A Paper Released Today from the Council of State Governments Justice Center Offers “Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies”
By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow, National Transitional Jobs Network
and Jonathan Philipp, Research and Policy Assistant, National Transitional Jobs Network
Each year, more than 650,000 individuals return to their communities from prison while millions more return home from jail. With overflowing correctional facilities and crunched state budgets, criminal justice policymakers and practitioners are increasingly working to ensure that returning citizens are not reincarcerated following their release. As a part of these successful reentry efforts, securing employment for formerly incarcerated individuals is critical—not only do returning citizens need immediate income to meet their basic needs, but incarcerated individuals who have been asked about their post-release plans report that being employed is crucial to their ability to stay crime-free. Despite wanting or needing to work, returning citizens face numerous barriers to employment including limited work histories, low educational attainment, and parole-mandated curfews or mobility restrictions. It’s not surprising, then, that employment providers who are focused on serving the chronically unemployed consistently serve large numbers of individuals with criminal records. Read More…
Re-examining Reentry: Transitional Jobs as a Strategic Investment in Individuals, Families, and Communities
When it comes to employment, too many formerly incarcerated individuals find themselves out of a job. It’s no secret that the United States has seen a recent explosion in its prison population—more than 2 million people in this country are incarcerated, and each year about 700,000 people are released from state prisons back into their communities. Many of these returning citizens come home to urban neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and an array of social problems. And, as our brief about working with job seekers newly released from prison points out, these folks desperately need paid employment—many reentering individuals can’t afford such basics as clothing, medical treatment, housing, or even food.