NEW ORLEANS, LA – Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the official launch of the City’s comprehensive workforce reentry initiative, which is aimed at reintegrating ex-offenders into the community through education, job-training and social services.
The reentry program focuses on a part of Mayor Landrieu’s comprehensive murder reduction strategy, NOLA FOR LIFE, which includes creating jobs and opportunity.
Through the reentry program, the City of New Orleans will partner with a network of reentry and workforce partners to coordinate a continuum of outreach and services beginning when individuals are still incarcerated and continuing through their release to sustained employment.
“Our young men need the opportunity to get out of the cycle of crime and incarceration and onto a pathway to prosperity. Our reentry strategy will connect them with jobs and opportunity,” Mayor Landrieu said.
View today’s press conference
Partially funded by a 12-month grant from the U.S Department of Justice totaling over $600,000, the City’s reentry initiative creates a pipeline connecting the corrections system, job training programs and wraparound services such as life skills training, mental health and substance abuse programs.
“New Orleans is a city with a very diverse inward migration, and one of the population migrating back are those citizens returning from incarceration,” said Thelma French, President and CEO of Total Community Action, which provides reentry case management. “We know that the opportunity for employment is a critical pathway. With a job, they are able to establish reestablish a sense of leadership and family guidance.”
As part of the program, the City will partner with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections as well as local social service providers to add training opportunities and wraparound services to their programs.
The City’s JOB1 Office of Workforce Development and Delgado Community College will ensure that the training provided by the facilities is in line with the jobs available in the marketplace and will engage and educate their employer networks to prepare them to hire offenders that successfully complete this training program. Additionally, employers who hire former offenders are eligible for $5,000 fidelity bonds to insure against any losses that may occur. The bonds, issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, are available through JOB1. For more information, employers may contact the Business Services Unit of JOB1 at 504-658-4500.
Working with partners such as Goodwill Industries of Southeast Louisiana, the program also will provide reentry services to ex-offenders who have been out of the system for longer than six months.
“Many people we’ve worked with have had doors slammed in their faces because they are ex-offenders, but having the support of NOLA FOR LIFE and Mayor Landrieu is a great step toward opening those doors,” said Dr. Kim Evans Rugon, Vice President of Mission Services for Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, which operates job training and placement programs for ex-offenders. “If some of the businesses in our city committed to providing just one job a month to ex-offenders it would greatly reduce the number of people contemplating re-offending because they have no other options.”
Through the reentry program, the City will also work with local employers to increase job opportunities for ex-offenders.
The City of New Orleans took an important step towards this goal today when the City’s Civil Service Commission approved a new policy that will “ban the box” that requires applicants to disclose prior convictions on initial job forms, and will establish new guidelines for screening candidates before a final hiring decision is made. Proposed by the Landrieu Administration, the new policy is designed to remove obstacles that might prevent qualified ex-offenders from attaining or retaining quality jobs. The City will still consider applicant’s criminal history, but later in hiring process along with other pertinent information.
More than 50 municipalities, including New York, Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have approved policies to “ban the box,” and a growing number of private companies, including Target Corp., have done so.