Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor formally announced their allocation of $80 million dollars for career exploration, job training, GED preparation, mentoring and case management for youth, young adult and adults who are formerly incarcerated individuals.
Known as the Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program, under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), this project aims to successfully reinstate “returning citizens”, as they are legally referred to, into the workforce, helping them become contributing members of society.
This can have momentous effects as lack of employment opportunities and the inability to support themselves often forces recently released offenders to either go back to conducting illicit activities in order to make some money, which has culminated in a staggering 60% re-incarceration rate within three years of release. More than 650,0000 inmates are released per year, so this equates to over 390,000 returning to prison.
While many critics chastise the government, claiming that there are many better uses for that $80 million, this program, if successful, will in fact save our country money in the long run. In just New York alone, the cost to feed, house and clothe an inmate for a year is around $165,000 and with over 12,000 inmates, it’s pretty clear that it will be WAY more cost efficient to help educate these individuals and keep them out of jail.
You’d be surprised by the level of skills and enterprise that many of the men and women running illegal operations possess. From balancing books, to marketing their businesses and monitoring their operations, these individuals, given the right resources and education, can be a future set of entrepreneurs with invaluable goods and services. And with over 36% of the incarcerated population being people of color, just imagine the number of minority business owners that can pop up in the coming years.