Gov't Awards Faith-Based, Community Groups with $5.5M

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded nearly $5.5 million in grants to 18 faith-based and community organizations to help and equip ex-prisoners as they prepare for re-entry into society.

"These $5.5 million in grants will advance local faith-based and community organization efforts to equip ex-prisoners with basic job skills, counseling and opportunities to earn an honest living in our communities," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao in the department's announcement Thursday.

"Steady employment, mentoring and moral support help break the cycle of despair and disordered, often criminal, lives," added Brent R. Orrell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training.

Each of the 18 organizations, which entered the competition announced last September by the Department of Labor, was awarded more than $300,000 and will serve at least 100 recently released individuals during the program's first year.

The grants were awarded as part of the President's Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (PRI), which helps strengthen urban communities and assist ex-prisoners re-entering the community through an employment-based program that incorporates mentoring, job training and other services.

Since President Bush introduced the initiative in his 2004 "State of the Union" address, faith-based and community organizations and their partners have enrolled more than 17,000 ex-offenders in PRI programs, and ex-offenders have been placed in more than 11,000 jobs.

Those entering PRI programs reportedly have a recidivism rate of 15 percent, or almost two-thirds below the 44 percent national average.