If you are recently released from prison, nobody needs to tell you that getting back on your feet after a period of incarceration can be difficult. Finding a job is already tough given the state of the economy and many employers simply will not hire someone convicted of a felony, making it all the more difficult to reenter the workforce after being released. But do not give up hope. There is a tremendous amount of help available through federal programs that have placed these resources in local communities designed to help you find work after leaving prison behind.
Over the last decade, the U.S. Government has passed several major pieces of legislation to address the problem. And millions of dollars of federal money has been earmarked to help former felons reintegrate into the workforce, however, there is not a federal grant program where you can apply for a personal grant as these programs simply do not work in that way. And finding help for each individual situation can be tough. In almost all cases, the federal grant funding is filtered down to state labor departments that help place former felons into suitable jobs and to faith-based and community programs whose mission it is to work one on one with ex-convicts after release.
As almost all of the help available to you is at the state and local level, this is the best place for you to start your search. Contact your state Department of Corrections and inquire about your state’s prison reentry program. Many larger communities also have a local prison reentry program in place and the state agency will be the best place for you to find out about local services in your area. They should also be familiar with any faith-based or non-profit organizations that can offer you help in your area.
Career One Stop
Getting a job is key to successfully starting a new life after incarceration. Over 700,000 former prisoners are released in the United States each year and the one thing they almost always have in common is the help they need to find work. The U.S. Department of Labor funds this network of local job centers. Here you can find what jobs are available in your area and apply for education and training programs that will prepare you for available work. You are not ineligible to receive help from these offices due to having a criminal record. In fact, quite the opposite is true. And it is very much the mission of the Career One Stop center in your area to help you find work, regardless of past mistakes and circumstances you cannot control. Do not be afraid to make the most of the services they offer in your search for sustainable work.
Faith-Based and Community Programs
You should then search out and contact any local ministry or non-profit organization in your area that work with ex-felons and offer services to help you reintegrate. There are many of these groups spread across the United States and they exist to help recently released felons successfully rejoin society and the workforce. When searching locally, understand that many of these organizations have made it their mission to help ex-convicts assimilate back into the general population. Do not be afraid to seek their assistance or let pride stand in your way to accepting their help. They are there to help you and are as interested in finding you as you are in need of the services they provide. Here are a few examples of the types of organizations that are out there that you should turn to for help:
Allen Temple Housing and Economic Development Corporation
This faith-based organization is run by the Allen Temple Baptist Church and helps around 500 residents of Oakland, CA annually through Prisoner Re-entry Initiative funding.
This is not a church or a non-profit. America Works is an employment agency. They specialize in placing workers into many fields that are hard to recruit available help. And they have a policy of hiring from former prison populations. America Works has offices in California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin and Washington, DC.
East of the River Clergy Police and Community Partnership
This is a community partnership that operates in the area of Southeast Washington, DC. It offers transitional housing to those leaving prison and will work with you to find long-term housing if selected for the program.
Exodus Transitional Community
Founded in 1999 by a former convict, Exodus is a faith-based reentry program in New York, NY. It offers employment services, career training and placement as well as other services targeted to help former felons find a successfully life after incarceration.
Operation New Hope
Based in Jacksonville, FL, this program provides job training and job placement for ex-felons. Selected participants undergo a 4 to 6 week career training program and the organization works to place its graduates in jobs through its many community partnerships.
This Chicago non-profit works with private companies that hire those with criminal records. Safer offers job training programs and help you to get your GED if you do not have a high school diploma. They also operate several residential transition centers, providing housing to those leaving prison while employed in work release jobs.
San Diego Second Chance Program
This non-profit works to transform lives through providing opportunity for behavioral changes and the acceptance of personal responsibility. They offer both job training and placement as well as drug rehabilitation and mental health services to those in need in the San Diego, CA area.
Word of Hope Ministries
This ministry is located in Milwaukee, WI. It offers a prison reentry program including mentoring and job placement for former felons as well as many other social services.
Getting an Education
In all cases, getting a proper education can be a powerful tool to help you find meaningful and suitable employment after serving time. This can set you apart from others and position you to get a better job that you could not otherwise get without a degree. If you find that attending a 4 year college or university is out of your reach financially, consider looking into vocational and technical school training, as this is usually far cheaper and more accessible. The good news here is that in pursuing an education there are in fact federal grants that can help you accomplish better preparing yourself for entering the workforce.
The Federal Pell Grant Program can offer you as much as $5,645 per year to attend school. This is a need-based grant that is not a loan and does not have to be repaid. It is in fact free money for you to use to attend a college or technical school. Whether you can receive this grant to attend school is not based on merit or the grades you received in high school, but rather it is solely determined by financial need. You could also receive up to an additional $4,000 per year in grant money if you are selected to receive a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. As most ex-felons do not have the financial support that keep students from receiving these grants, it is quite likely that you can receive this need-based funding after leaving prison.
You may have heard that you are not eligible for federal education grants such as the Pell Grant due to having a prior conviction. But this is far from being true in all cases. And many ex-felons allow this misconception to keep them from applying for help to get an education. If you were convicted of a drug related crime, you are ineligible to receive a Pell Grant. But unless you were already receiving a Pell Grant at the time of your conviction, you can enroll in a drug rehabilitation program and become eligible to receive this federal funding. If your conviction was not for a drug related crime, then you are completely eligible to receive this federal school funding and should look into using this federal help to better your education. For information about all federal grant and loan programs offered by the Department of Education, read our article on federal student grants.