New Orleans, LA – Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White, City Council, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, the Business Council of New Orleans and River Parishes and City officials unveiled the City’s NOLA FOR LIFE Reentry Strategy. Alongside a diverse set of service providers and business leaders, city leaders detailed plans to reduce recidivism by increasing access to employment, social services and educational support for citizens returning from incarceration.
Click here to view photos from the press conference
“Through NOLA FOR LIFE, our community continues to create pathways away from violence and towards opportunity,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “With committed partners across the city, we will now have a coordinated strategy that gives our returning citizens at chance at prosperity and follows on our commitment to not leave anyone behind in the rebuilding of New Orleans.”
The new Reentry Strategy seeks to build on the success of other NOLA FOR LIFE initiatives through the implementation of a comprehensive effort to increase access to jobs, social services and education opportunities for returning citizens. Over a nine month period, City officials worked with over 45 organization and agencies to create the plan. In December 2013, the City of New Orleans took the first major step towards this goal when the City’s Civil Service Commission approved a policy that “bans the box” that requires applicants to disclose prior convictions on initial job forms, with the goal of increasing the ability of qualified ex-offenders to obtain quality jobs.
In the coming months, the Reentry Strategy will introduce technology training and a re-orientation seminar to reach returning citizens within 72 hours of their release. Additionally, the Workforce Reentry Pilot Program will provide critical wraparound social services, educational and employment opportunities, and community support for those who have spent time on probation and returning citizens most at-risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violent crime. Of specific focus are men and women, between the ages of 16-30, who have a High School diploma or less and who may have been participants in existing reentry programs at Orleans Parish Prison or the Orleans Parish Criminal Court.
“The pilot program allows us to put the strategy to work and change the trajectory of men and women working through or returning from the criminal justice system,” said Charles West, Director of the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team. “We have an incredible opportunity to offer comprehensive resources through a coordination of service providers that span the spectrum of need.”
Through a network of social service providers and workforce development partners, the City will increase access to job training in order to best equip those returning from incarceration with the tools needed to secure employment and successfully reintegrate into the community.
“This strategy localizes Job1 Workforce Development as the triage center by connecting re-entering citizens to intensive case management,” said Nadiyah Morris, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. “Access to jobs and meaningful opportunities will be a crucial component in ensuring the success of returning citizens.”
“Successful reentry is important not only to the futures of returning citizens and their families, but also to the well-being and quality of life of families in neighborhoods throughout Orleans Parish and sustained economic recovery and growth. Businesses play a pivotal role in fostering successful reentry through providing jobs and livelihoods to returning citizens. The Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region lauds the city for its NOLA FOR LIFE reentry strategy,” said Paul Flower, Chairman of the Business Council. “And we look forward to working with city to educate the business community about the issue and benefits of successful reentry initiatives for public safety and the community in general, and also bringing together reentry programs, community stakeholders, elected officials, and business and industry leaders to formulate ways to collaboratively advance and bolster reentry policies and programs.”
In addition to the Workforce Reentry Pilot Program, the City of New Orleans was awarded a $600, 000 Technology Training Demonstration Project grant from the Department of Justice to provide additional training opportunities for the Reentry Court program as well as the Southeast Regional Reentry Program at Orleans Parish Prison. This 12-month project will allow the City, in partnership with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, to provide a range of wraparound services.
As part of the Reentry Strategy, a network of partners and service providers from across the city are leveraging federal funding and other resources to increase service offerings. Reentry partners including the Goodwill Industries of South Louisiana, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans and Odyssey House plan to leverage existing funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to provide case management and ancillary services to those returning home.
“TCA is proud to partner with the City and the other agencies and programs in this critical initiative, designed to strengthen and support our city’s reentry services. I think the goal of everyone involved in the reentry process – the reentering citizen, the family, the community, and the agencies – should be to improve the chances of successful reintegration for each returning citizen,” said Thelma French, President and CEO of Total Community Action, Inc. “It is critical that we work collectively to re-establish (or as the case may be, establish) positive connections between the returning citizen and his or her family, the world of work, and the institutions of community.”
“The re-entry efforts of the city and agencies like Goodwill are giving returning citizens a second chance at life. They are obtaining the needed supportive services and technical and life skills that will make them marketable in spite of their past situation,” said Dr. Kim Rugon, Vice President of Mission Services for Goodwill Industries of South Louisiana. “It is imperative that businesses, large or small, help in the efforts of providing job placement for these returning citizens. It will not only boost their self-confidence but with decrease their chances of re-offending and ultimately reduce this city's crime rate.”
The initiatives included in the NOLA FOR LIFE Reentry Strategy are a collective effort positioned to break down barriers that leave one in 86 adults in Louisiana incarcerated.
“Providing opportunities for former offenders to spend time with their families and prepare for the future is an essential component of our fight to end cyclical violence in New Orleans,” District A Council Member Susan Guidry said. “A smart, comprehensive re-entry program will reap benefits for our City for years to come.”
As part of NOLA FOR LIFE, the Reentry Strategy seeks to build on the early results of the City’s comprehensive effort to tackle the city’s historically high murder rate. Through the first quarter of 2014, the city is seeing early results with the lowest number of murders since 1970 and the lowest murder rate since 1985, excluding the year after Hurricane Katrina.