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Education Department Announces New Tools to Support Successful Reentry for Formerly Incarcerated Youth and Adults

The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, announced today $5.7 million in new grants aimed at improving outcomes for students who have been involved in the criminal justice system. The Department also released a new toolkit providing guidance to educators and others to support a successful reentry system for formerly incarcerated youth and adults.

The announcement is part of the Obama Administration’s National Reentry Week, led by the U.S. Department of Justice and supported by the Education Department and other agencies. King kicked off the week with a roundtable conversation with students whose parents are incarcerated or were formerly incarcerated, as well as educators and others who support students and their families.

“Reentry is a critical moment that requires planning, support and preparation,” says King. “We need to help ensure formerly incarcerated young people and adults can return to their communities successfully. We need a community working together to provide job training, social and emotional support and a concerted effort to ensure success. Not only is this the right thing to do for families and for children, it also makes smart economic sense for our country.”

The Education Department’s reentry grant program focuses on career and technical education programs, reentry services and employment training opportunities for students. The four grantees are: Portland (Oregon) Community College, Saint Paul (Minnesota) Public Schools, Shelby County (Tennessee) Board of Education and the School District of Philadelphia.

The Department will support the establishment and operation of projects that build on existing efforts to improve reentry outcomes for youths who have been in the justice system, including focusing on career and technical education and building strong partnerships to implement a comprehensive, collaborative approach to improving education, employment, and other positive outcomes for these young people.

The toolkit announced today aligns with the Education Department’s effort to promote access to correctional education and reentry services for those leaving the criminal justice system, and thereby build stronger, safer communities and families. The toolkit provides resources for educators and community members and highlights the five critical components of an effective reentry system: program infrastructure, strategic partnerships, education services, transition processes, and sustainability.

Children of incarcerated parents are at greater risk of health and behavior issues in school, among other challenges. Research shows that more than 5 million children have had at least one parent in prison at one point in their lives. The prevalence of incarceration, particularly in low-income communities of color, has negative consequences for both those incarcerated and their families. In addition, children of incarcerated parents face more economic and residential instability than their counterparts.

A 2013 federal study of people released from state prisons found that 94 percent of incarcerated adults who were nearing reentry identified education as a key need. Equipping incarcerated youth and adults with the skills they need to successfully reenter the community is one of the most powerful – and cost-effective – ways to ensure they avoid future contact with the justice system and become productive members of society.

The Department has previously invested in supporting successful reentry through the 2013 Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities grant for the implementation of three adult reentry education demonstration projects that implemented an evidence-based reentry education model. In September 2015, the Department announced the nine recipients of the Improved Reentry Education grant, which provides funding and technical assistance to improve the educational attainment and reentry success of individuals who have been incarcerated through high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services that span institutional and community settings.

The Obama Administration is hosting events across the country throughout National Reentry Week with stakeholders including federal defenders, legal aid providers, and other partners across the country. These events are designed to raise awareness and make announcements in support of successful reentry strategies that both increase public safety and fulfill our nation’s commitment to the promise of individual redemption.

The Obama Administration has taken major steps to make our criminal justice system fairer, more efficient, and more effective at reducing recidivism and helping formerly incarcerated individuals contribute to their communities. An important part of that commitment is preparing those who have paid their debt to society for substantive opportunities beyond the prison gates, and addressing obstacles to successful reentry that too many returning citizens encounter.

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