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July 27, 2011
Doe Fund gets $5.6M grant from feds

Money from Department of Labor will fund expansion of the organization's efforts to offer job training, work and career placement to new parolees.

by Jermaine Taylor
The Doe Fund, which provides job opportunities and advocates on behalf of low-income and homeless individuals, announced Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded it a $5.6 million grant to expand on the prisoner reentry efforts pioneered by the organization's Ready, Willing & Able program.

The Manhattan-based organization, founded in 1985, currently has an annual operating budget of $50 million. It was one of only seven organizations chosen by the department to receive funding under its Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration program to provide job training, paid transitional work, comprehensive support and career placement to new parolees.

“Studies have shown that a period of paid transitional work is absolutely crucial to them not only obtaining—but maintaining—full-time, quality employment,” said George McDonald, founder and president of The Doe Fund, in a statement. “That's the core of Ready, Willing & Able, and it helps these men re-learn healthy work habits while they begin to give back to their communities.”

The goal of the labor department program is to cut criminal recidivism in half among its participant programs. The department hopes to identify which transitional work programs are the most effective, and then to replicate the most successful models nationwide.

Anti-recidivism advocates see such efforts, and the increased attention being given to issues surrounding reentry, as a welcome sign.

“I think for all of the attention on reentry, it hasn't been as quick to translate into investment in the kinds of service that people who are coming back to their communities from prison need,” said Ann Jacobs, director of the Prison Reentry Institute at the City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The Doe Fund has really been ground-breaking in their commitment to providing employment opportunities to people many others would have said were unemployable.”

Ms. Jacobs, who was formerly the executive director of the Women's Prison Association, also applauded the efforts of agencies such as the Federal Reentry Policy Institute, chaired by Attorney General Eric Holder, and Justice Corps, a reentry model patterned on the popular Job Corps that emphasizes how formerly incarcerated individuals can give back to the community.

“After twenty years of helping thousands of new parolees through Ready, Willing & Able,” said Mr. McDonald, “we can say with authority that nothing stops recidivism like a job.”

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