For a convicted felon, re-entry into mainstream society can be a difficult proposition. Employers are often reluctant to hire an ex-convict, no matter the circumstances of the prior conviction and regardless of the applicant's skills and experience. Fortunately, there are opportunities for retraining and employment supported by grant money.
Second Chance Act
A series of federal initiatives has appropriated public grant funds to support successful re-entry by ex-felons. The most recent was the Second Chance Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. This law provided $326 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and state-level agencies for programs assisting with housing, employment, substance-abuse treatment, medical assistance and other support services. In 2010, 187 programs received grants through the Second Chance Act initiative. In 2011, the Department of Justice issued several solicitations for grant applications for Second Chance Act funds.
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The Juvenile Offender Reentry Program funds programs operated by state, local and Indian governments designed to reduce recidivism of juveniles released from incarceration. A similar grant program helps to fund adult re-entry programs. The National Reentry Resource Center, a division of the Department of Justice, assists with the grant writing process for this and other Second Chance Act solicitations.
Re-Entry Courts and Substance Abuse
Another 2011 solicitation offered funds for the establishment of re-entry courts on the state, local and tribal levels. These courts provide treatment services and carry out monitoring of ex-offenders to ensure their stable transition to general population. The Second Chance Act Family-Based Offender Substance Abuse Treatment Program offers funds to create, or improve, residential substance-abuse programs, including family support programs.
Mentoring and Technology Training
Mentoring is an important aspect of any re-entry program targeted at juveniles. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has solicited grant applications from public agencies and non-profits for providing employment, housing, substance-abuse treatment and mentoring for juvenile offenders. The grant is meant for programs that follow juvenile offenders from incarceration through their release and re-integration. Second Chance Act funds have also been granted to local agencies for technology career training, for both adult and juvenile offenders. The training may takes place in prisons, jails or juvenile facilities during a three-year period before the offender's scheduled release date.
To take advantage of these federally supported grant programs, contact the public agency that handles justice programs in your state. Often, this is labeled Office of the Attorney General or Department of Justice; your state also has a corrections department that can provide information. The group Felons of America operates a website with links to the public departments that operate grant-supported re-entry, training and mentoring programs (see Resources).