On Dec. 21, many formerly incarcerated individuals and their families are celebrating the second anniversary of the First Step Act, which reformed federal prisons and sentencing laws to reduce recidivism and mandatory minimums, expand rehabilitation efforts, and maintain public safety.
Since President Trump signed it into law, thousands of federal prisoners have been released based on changes to good-time credits and others have benefitted from sentence reductions.
At the U.S. Department of Labor, we too believe in second chances. That’s why we are committed to helping those previously involved with the criminal justice system secure good jobs as well as informing employers about opportunities to provide second chances.
In the past two years, the Department awarded approximately $176.8 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and local and state governments as part of the Reentry Employment Opportunities program. Grant recipients collaborate with employers, community colleges and criminal justice partners to reduce barriers to reentry, help individuals gain industry-recognized credentials, and provide employment opportunities.
Additionally, local American Job Centers, funded by the Department, can help justice-involved individuals move into employment. Reentry.CareerOneStop.org provides the same career, training and job search tools available through American Job Centers but with external links disabled so correctional institutions and other secure facilities can make them available to individuals who are incarcerated but looking forward to their release date.
This December, we announced the availability of up to $3.3 million in grants for states and territories through the Federal Bonding Program. This program provides fidelity bonds to employers as a risk-reduction tool for hiring people with criminal records. For more information, visit www.bonds4jobs.com.
A recent Federal Bonding Program success story comes from a Michigan small business owner who was looking to hire. A fidelity bond was issued for a worker with a criminal record and due to the job seeker’s good work performance, the business offered her full employment after the bond expired. The bonds represent an excellent return on investment for taxpayers. In 2019, less than 1% of bonds were redeemed. Businesses can have confidence in the integrity and work ethic of the individuals they hire using these bonds.
We know that reducing recidivism is tied to a meaningful job. The Labor Department stands ready to help people exiting the justice system to secure meaningful work and reintegrate into their communities.
John Pallasch is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training.