The “Face Forward” grants will support job-training and skills-development to help people ages 16-24 overcome the stigma of a juvenile arrest record, which can be a lifelong barrier to advancement in the workforce.
Groups receiving the grant money must collaborate with nonprofit legal services to expunge offenders’ court records; or those groups must be designated as “diversion” programs by the juvenile justice system. Pre-trial diversion allows people to avoid criminal convictions.
Participating juveniles cannot have been involved with the adult federal, state or local criminal justice systems or have been convicted of a sex-related offense other than prostitution.
“Part of the American spirit is a belief in second chances, especially when it comes to young people,” said acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris. “With these grants, we can encourage young people to ‘Face Forward’ and build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.”
The Labor Department said approximately 26 grants of up to $1 million each will be awarded to groups (nonprofit, local government or tribal) that can provide pretrial diversion and/or expungement. Other requirements for grantees include mentoring, education, and training that leads to credentials for in-demand industries and occupations.
(The announcement does not say what those in-demand occupations are, but previously, the Labor Department has committed itself to being a leader in creating green jobs and a clean energy economy.)
In a speech last month, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department -- under the Second Chance Act of 2008 -- has awarded 400 grants totaling more than $250 million to support adult and juvenile reentry programs.
In 2011, Holder convened a Federal Interagency Reentry Council, comprised of leaders from 20 federal agencies, to address the challenges associated with people leaving prison and re-entering the community.
According to Holder, “reentry is not just a matter of public safety – it’s also an issue of housing and health care policy; a question of education and employment; and a fatherhood and family challenge that affects millions across the country every year.”
Holder said the Justice Department is trying to remove barriers that “too often prevent formerly incarcerated individuals from smoothly rejoining their communities – and becoming responsible, law-abiding members of society.”