Urban Reentry Jobs Program Tapping Into the Full Potential of Formerly Incarcerated Community Members
“I wasn’t informed about the long-term consequences of my conviction before or after I accepted a plea deal for seven years and eight months in 2004. It wasn’t until my release in 2012 that I learned about the hidden sentence I would experience for the rest of my life. When I was released I had a plan to succeed, but little by little my plan crumbled. I couldn’t become a welder, an auto body and paint technician or a barber. I couldn’t even scrub toilets and mop floors at the local hospital. The more I tried to contribute to my community, the more I faced barriers.”
—Jay Jordan, Second Chances Project Director, Californians for Safety and Justice
The part of my job I appreciate the most is getting to know the exceptional men and women who have turned their lives around— after facing seemingly insurmountable challenges—with a helping hand from of the Urban League Movement.
Just last week in Chicago, I had the honor to meet two young men—one who has founded a thriving landscaping business, and another who is well on his way to a career as a commercial truck driver. These would be commendable achievements even for anyone with a reasonable clear path, but for those emerging from incarceration, they are extraordinary.
The National Urban League has been serving the formerly incarcerated for more than fifty years, only in the last few years with the support of the federal government. The Urban Reentry Jobs Program provides formerly incarcerated adults with the necessary skills and training to successfully re-enter the workforce and jobs at family-sustaining wages.
Through Adult Re-entry, a National Urban League signature program, the formerly incarcerated have an opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials, learn employment-focused skills, and form positive relationships with their communities.
Among the nearly 800 participants:
• 86% have earned a credential or certificate
• 95% did not return to prison
• 65% became employee
A 35-year-old father of three, Mario emerged from prison after eight years never having held a permanent legal job. He was living at a Salvation Army before he found his way to the Chicago Urban League. After completing the Urban Reentry Jobs Program, Mario has graduated with high honors from the welding program at Kennedy-King College.
The need for initiatives like the Urban Reentry Jobs Program could not be more critical. As many as three out of four people remain unemployed a year after their release from prison, and just 12.5 percent of employers say they will accept job applications from the formerly incarcerated.
This burden falls disproportionately on America’s people of color, who represent more than two-thirds of the incarcerated while comprising only about 24% percent of the population. African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men.
No aspect of the criminal justice system has exacerbated the mass incarceration crisis more than the so-called War on Drugs, and none is more racially disparate. African Americans are no more likely to use or sell prohibited drugs than whites, but they far more likely to be charged and sentenced to prison for identical conduct.
This crisis impacts not only the families of the incarcerated, but the nation as a whole. According to an ACLU report, the gross national product suffers an annual loss of $80 billion a year due to employment discrimination against the formerly incarcerated. Not to mention the costs to local and state governments caused by recidivism: if states could lower recidivism rates by just 10 percent, they could save an average of $635 million annually, according to Pew Research Center.
Millions of people leave prison to re-enter their communities each year. The Urban League Movement is committed to removing barriers to their full participation and helping every American to achieve his or her full potential. As civil rights attorney Michelle Alexander wrote in her seminal work, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, “Martin Luther King Jr. called for us to be lovestruck with each other, not colorblind toward each other. To be lovestruck is to care, to have deep compassion, and to be concerned for each and every individual, including the poor and vulnerable.”
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Congressman Brown Secures Over $2 Million in Grant Funding For Housing Counseling Providers
WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 10, 2018)—Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) released the following statement after the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced more than $2 million in grant funding would be awarded to HomeFree USA and Housing Initiative Partnership in Riverdale and Hyattsville, respectively.
“My first bill in Congress was about making home ownership more affordable for working families, but there’s much more work to be done to make the dream of owning your own home attainable for every American,” said Congressman Brown. “I’m proud to support organizations like HomeFree USA and Housing Initiative Partnership that are helping families in my district and across Maryland achieve their dreams of homeownership.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $1,952,955.00 to HomeFree USA of Riverdale, MD and $55,766.00 to Housing Initiative Partnership of Hyattsville, MD from the Comprehensive Housing Counseling Program.
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Van Hollen, Collins, Cardin Introduce Protect Our Elections Act
WASHINGTON (October 11, 2018)—Today U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced the Protect Our Elections Act, which would prohibit foreign adversaries from owning and controlling the companies supporting American elections. Our intelligence chiefs have made it clear that hostile foreign actors continue to work to disrupt our democratic process by any means possible. In Maryland, for example, the FBI announced in July that a Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin was heavily invested in the software vendor that maintains key parts of the state’s election infrastructure. This common-sense legislation—with public disclosure and annual reporting—is essential in ensuring that our elections are free from foreign influence.
“Our free and fair elections are central to what makes America’s democracy an example to the world. We cannot allow Russia or any other foreign adversaries to own our election systems. This isn’t just a hypothetical issue—it happened right here in my home state of Maryland,” said Senator Van Hollen, who has written to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to review the issue in Maryland and introduced bipartisan sanctions legislation to deter future attacks on American elections. “The bipartisan Protect Our Elections Act would take simple but critical steps to ensure that the nuts and bolts of our elections are secure.”
“We know that the Russians were relentless in their efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections, and that those efforts are ongoing,” said Senator Collins. “The Protect Our Elections Act would help strengthen the integrity of our election process and instill confidence among voters by requiring election infrastructure vendors to be owned and controlled by American citizens or our closest allies. The need to act is urgent, and I encourage our colleagues to support this commonsense legislation.”
“Elections are a cornerstone of the rule of law in America and foreign governments will continue to attempt to attack our election systems and work to undermine Americans’ faith in their government and the sanctity of the results of a free and fair election contest,” said Senator Cardin. “All levels of government must therefore implement immediate safeguards to preserve the security and integrity of America’s ballot box, whether it is a paper or electronic ballot.”
The Protection Our Elections Act contains two central provisions:
• Mandates disclosure of foreign ownership or control: The bill requires the companies that provide elections services to report to the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission, and appropriate state or local governmental entities any foreign national who owns or controls their firm. It also requires elections service providers to notify the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission, and appropriate state or local governmental entities of any material change in ownership or control. It mandates a $10,000 fine for any election service provider that fails to submit the required information.
• Prohibition on foreign ownership and control of elections systems: The bill requires state and local governments to conduct an annual evaluation of their election service providers to ensure that each election service provider is solely owned and controlled by U.S. persons. The legislation includes an exception for election service providers created or organized under the laws of our Five Eyes allies—Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
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