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July 13, 2016

SDWP is excited to announce the award of a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to build upon the success of its Reentry Works San Diego program at the East Mesa Reentry Facility (EMRF) to also create a career center and provide pre- and post-release career services at Las Colinas, an all-female facility in Santee, CA.

Reentry Works is the result of a partnership between SDWP and the San Diego County Sheriff’s and Probation departments. The goal of the program is to boost the numbers of job placements of offenders reentering the community by better integrating public career services with the criminal justice system. Overall goals also include reducing recidivism and promoting public safety.

Reentry Works San Diego reflects a philosophy we have in our service delivery strategy: targeting job training programs to people most in need, like the justice-involved, and in meeting people where they are by bringing our valuable program services directly to the community our target population are living in,” says Andrew Picard, Director of Adult Programs at SDWP. “We have been very pleased with the initial outcomes at EMRF and are excited to have the opportunity to expand and replicate the program model for the women at Las Colinas.”

Women are entering the criminal justice system at an alarming rate. Since 1985, the number of women imprisoned in the U.S. has increased by 404 percent, compared to an increase of 209 percent for men. When women exit incarceration and reenter communities, the challenges they face are multi-faceted and numerous. Employment preparation and support is an important component of successful reentry.

Program participants at Las Colinas will have access to a computer lab to work on résumés and other online self-directed skill-building tools, as well as attend a full menu of job-readiness and related workshops led by grant-funded staff, peers and community volunteers. In addition, the grant will fund a post-release staff person to continue services in tandem with probation officers, providing the critical continuum of services needed to improve reentry outcomes. Career center staff will provide team-based case management with the Sheriff’s counseling staff and probation officers who will hold joint meetings to connect probationers to employment as part of their reentry plan.

“It is important for people being released from custody to have employment that will help them maintain a crime-free life. By having career training or vocational training at Las Colinas, the participants will be given an opportunity to recognize that they have skills in areas where they can find employment,” says Christine Brown-Taylor, Reentry Services Manager with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

As 80 percent of the female ex-offenders return home to care for children, the career center staff will not only focus on employment skills but also connecting program participants to childcare and other support services prior to release to help remove as many barriers to employment as possible.

Another unique challenge is that women experience a higher prevalence of abuse and trauma than their male counterparts, with between 77 to 98 percent reporting lived experience with trauma (domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse). To help ensure the most effective intervention, the Sheriff’s Department has contracted with a nationally recognized expert to provide all staff at Las Colinas training and resources to develop gender-responsive and trauma-informed reentry services. The career center staff will receive this ongoing training to implement trauma- and gender-informed values in their approach, including developing gender-responsive policies and procedures and a program assessment.

The grant award is part of the U.S. DOL’s Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) initiative, designed to build partnerships between local correctional systems and the local workforce systems to connect individuals with criminal records who are transitioning to a range of community-based services that lead to employment and a renewed future. Approximately $5.5 million in grants were awarded to 11 organizations to operate specialized American Job Centers inside correctional facilities. This is the second round of LEAP grants. Previously, the department awarded $10 million to 20 organizations in 14 states in June 2015. SDWP is one of only two in the nation to receive funding during both rounds for a total of $1 million.

“America works best when we field a full team, but far too many people who have been involved with the criminal justice system are being left on the sidelines,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “These grants are an important step in fulfilling our promise as a land of second chances by moving beyond locking people up and instead working together to unlock their potential.”

The Las Colinas career center is slated to begin selecting participants in October.

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