Mississippi isn’t alone in pursuing programs to help the incarcerated get training and certifications shown to reduce recidivism and supplement the local workforce, but Courtney Taylor’s post about the East Mississippi Community College’s partnership with Clay County prompted me to investigate further.
I’ve written before about the program in Walton County, Florida that offers county jail inmates certificate program training. What I didn’t know is that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a key supporter of this type of program.
Through a grant to the Mississippi Humanities Council, Mississippi is one of the states that has benefitted from their commitment to supporting these programs across the county to the tune of over $38 million. If you want to see if your area has plugged in to this source of funding, and read more about the research on the benefits of them, check out their grants database here: Mellon Foundation Grant Database.
As with many things, budgets and programs were cut during the pandemic, but are now restarting. Another spur to this type of training is the recent decision to allow incarcerated students to use Pell grants to pay for educational costs that aren’t otherwise subsidized starting with the 2023-2024 school year (some offenses will cause eligibility to be denied). in this article explaining the changes, take note of the fact that 130 colleges and universities are already participating in the Second Chance Pell Grant program ahead of wider expansion.
The resources I’ve cited here will hopefully support you in conversations if you aren’t already seeing these types of programs locally. You are in a great position to be prepared to explain the trade offs – the possibility of investing in these programs in order to reduce the financial and social burden of recidivism, to supplement the local workforce, and to deal with likelihood that changing (marijuana) drug laws are likely to result in a growing population of people looking for a way to successfully re-enter the workforce. Being able to point to the growing number of these programs may also help you engage with your employers and address questions they may have about the benefits and risks to them of tapping in to this talent.