Federal Grant to Boost Re-Entry Jobs Program

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Congressman Andre Carson joined city officials for the grant announcement. Congressman Andre Carson joined city officials for the grant announcement.

The founder of Indianapolis-based RecycleForce says a federal grant will allow his company to continue providing transitional employment to ex-offenders. The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the $1.5 million grant, which the city of Indianapolis says will help re-establish the Indianapolis Career Pathways Collaborative. The company says the funding will help provide employment, OSHA Safety, and industry-recognized credential training to nearly 200 people with a moderate-to-high risk of re-offending upon returning to high-crime and high-poverty areas.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Gregg Keesling said there are lots of ex-offenders who have to pay fines and fees as part of their re-entry process.

"It's very difficult for high-risk people to be able to work in the mainstream economy because they have to leave for a drug test, theft class, anger management class; they have to pay their ankle bracelet fees; they have to do home detention monitoring," said Keesling. "It's very hard for a regular employer to hire an individual and then say, 'I'll let you off Tuesday and you come back on Thursday,' and basically work at will because you need to adhere to the criminal justice (system). If you don't, you're going to be violated."

Keesling says RecycleForce has created a work model to help ex-offenders adhere to their requirements in the criminal justice system. 

"We help monitor the oversight requirements. We're helping people know, 'Hey it's time to go to drug glass; you've got to clock out. Can we get your probation officer to come and visit you here?' So we're helping them manage their re-entry. I love all people, but there are dangerous individuals that need to be monitored. I do believe we monitor way more than we should but some monitoring needs to happen and I think that people we have here are people who should be monitored and it's just to help them work and move through it so they get to the other side of the monitor."

The grant was announced Wednesday at a news conference with Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Congressman Andre Carson (D-07). The city says it is relaunching the CPC as an advisory board to ensure RecycleForce "is producing the types of training that prepares individuals re-entering our community for high demand occupations in Indianapolis."

The CPC members include representatives of a variety of organizations and agencies, including the Indiana Department of Corrections, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office and EmployIndy. The board will meet four times annually over the next two years.

Keesling says he hopes to see the state take more initiative in providing funding for programs such as his so they can be implemented at other areas throughout the state. "There's lots of other places adopting our model. My greatest frustration is figuring out how to get to our legislators and to the governor and to the governor's leadership team about this issue. We can save the state of Indiana money and we can help put people back to work and become part of their families."

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