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
“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.
“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.
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.