Department of Labor Funds Correctional Employment Centers

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced earlier this month it has funded $10 million in grants for projects in 20 communities in 14 states to provide comprehensive pre-release services to inmates as well as ongoing support as they re-enter their communities. The grants were supported by the "Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release" or "LEAP" initiative.

More than 9 million people are released from the nation’s more than 3,000 county and local jails every year, according to U.S. Department of Justice reports. Many lack job skills and face multiple barriers to stable employment. Without a strong support system or a steady job, the odds of recidivism are much higher.

"When someone leaves a county or local jail, very real barriers too often stand in their way as they try to find a good job and lead a successful life," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez in a statement. "We have to do more to help them land on their feet as they return to their communities.

"We have to work together and use existing resources in new, innovative ways to break the cycle of incarceration. The LEAP initiative encourages greater coordination between local workforce programs, correctional systems and other critical services to prepare inmates for jobs before release, and to continue to assist them as they return home," Perez added. "This is a commonsense approach that strengthens communities and improves public safety at the same time."

The LEAP initiative goal is to help integrate correctional facilities and workforce development programs. In nearly every county, municipal or regional area, jail or correctional facilities are located near the approximately 2,500 U.S. Department of Labor-funded American Job Centers, but administered by local government or a non-profit organization through a local workforce investment board, according to a statement by the DOL.

LEAP will provide the necessary start-up capital to develop specialized employment centers in 20 communities in California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. The centers will serve as extensions of existing nearby American Job Centers and will work to better integrate available community services — including follow up and support — according to the DOL.

In total, 20 grants of approximately $500,000 each were awarded to local workforce investment boards that have demonstrated partnerships with their county or municipal governments and their county, municipal, or regional correctional facilities.