TAP Awarded $3 Million U.S. Department of Labor Pathway Home Grant
Publication Date: September 28, 2022
The Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (IPG) will be working with the community action agency Total Action for Progress (TAP) to serve individuals who are incarcerated in the Roanoke City Jail.
A Pathway Home grant proposal developed in collaboration between TAP and Dr. David Moore, IPG Senior Research Faculty, was recently awarded $3 million from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to provide job training and reentry services to incarcerated people. TAP’s proposal is one of 18 initiatives in 14 states chosen to participate in the $50.6 million federal grant program. TAP joins this national cohort in the third year of the Pathway Home grant program, with the DOL Employment and Training Administration administering $125 million across 42 grantees in the previous two years.1
Pathway Home grants are employment-driven and foster networks among local employers to facilitate workforce opportunities for those who are incarcerated. Pre-release services start between 20 to 270 days from participants’ slated release dates, including career exploration, job readiness, and job skills training. Post-release services include apprenticeship opportunities, career services, interview preparation, and crafting an employment plan. A special focus will be to provide training opportunities in fields such as construction, warehousing, food service, and customer service, industries in which employers are sometimes willing to hire individuals with a criminal background.
Jo Nelson, Director of This Valley Works at TAP, believes this grant can contribute to reshaping the prison system. “Pathway Home is an exciting venture for us. By investing in reentry training into the workforce, we are rethinking the purpose through which jails should be operating.
The program aims to serve 300 participants from the Roanoke City Jail who are in the post-conviction phase and serving full-time. The project has a three month startup phase that began in July, followed by 27 months of active programming. TAP will provide a one year follow-up as participants transition out of intensive services. While there may be reentry resources available for the incarcerated population coming out of the prison system, Dr. Moore noted local jails often have fewer reentry oriented programs and supports available to their residents.
“People who serve their time in local jail often don’t have access to those resources,” Dr. Moore said. “As a result, they tend to have a higher recidivism rate. With this proposal, we decided to focus on Roanoke City Jail thanks to its leadership believing that the jail should be rehabilitative and provide services, rather than just warehousing people for a period of time.”
Recidivism, the process of previously convicted individuals reentering the prison system, is a recurring problem for local jails. Approximately nine million people are released from local jails each year, but two out of three are rearrested and over 50 percent are incarcerated again.2 This cycle is costly for society, as taxpayer dollars may pay for arrests, trials, court proceedings, incarceration, and supervision, in addition to the loss of productivity and quality of life of the individuals who are repeatedly incarcerated.3 Pathway Home can help break this cycle by providing tangible resources through credible partners to ensure previously incarcerated individuals have access to a safety net as they transition post-release.
Some of TAP’s partners for the Pathway Home project include Virginia Career Works, Bradley Free Clinic’s HOPE Initiative, and Virginia CARES, which is Virginia’s statewide reentry program. These organizations will help to provide career services, as well as mental health and recovery resources. An estimated 56 percent of state prisoners in the U.S. deal with mental health struggles,4 and 85 percent have had a substance use disorder (SUD) or were incarcerated for a crime involving drug use.5 In Virginia, 90 percent of jails provide therapy programs for SUD and 86 percent for mental health because of these high rates.6
Dr. Moore is quick to attribute community collaborators as the driving force behind the success of the Pathway Home proposal. “We won this grant thanks to our great partnerships. Many community partners are coming together with the Roanoke City Jail as a part of their new RIGNITE program. Thanks to this grant, we now have the ability and the financial resources to help the incarcerated population in Roanoke City.”
Dr. Moore’s collaboration with TAP began in 2014, where he served as a facilitator for the Early Head Start partnership to expand early childhood education in the Roanoke and New River Valleys. From 2016-2021, Dr. Moore helped TAP lead SwiftStart, a Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI), to assist un- and under-employed parents with childcare, transportation, and other wraparound supports that made it possible for them to succeed in a job training program in a high-demand field such as healthcare. From 2019-2022, Dr. Moore also worked with TAP on a RESTORE workforce grant to support women impacted by the opioid crisis who endeavored to advance their careers through access to job training and employment services.
1 United States Department of Labor. (2022, June 29). US Department of Labor Awards $50.6M in pathway home grants to provide pre-release job training, services to incarcerated people. https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20220629
2 Benecchi, L. (2021, August 8). Recidivism imprisons American progress. Harvard Political Review. https://harvardpolitics.com/recidivism-american-progress/
3 Jackson-Green, B. (2015, October 22). The high cost of recidivism. Illinois Policy. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/the-high-cost-of-recidivism/
4 Kim, K. D., Becker-Cohen, M., & Serakos, M. (2015, April 7). The processing and treatment of mentally ill persons in the Criminal Justice System. Urban Institute. https://www.urban.org/research/publication/processing-and-treatment- mentally-ill-persons-criminal-justice-system
5 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 1). Criminal justice drugfacts. National Institutes of Health. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/criminal-justice#:~: text=There%20are%20high%20rates%20of,involving% 20drugs%20or%20drug%20use
6 Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. (2020, December). Status of Virginia Jails’ Re-entry, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Services. https://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/sites/dcjs.virginia.gov/files/ publications/corrections/ status- virginia-jails-re-entry-mental-health-and- substance-abuse-services.pdf