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Funds Cut for Post-Prison Reentry Program

December 17, 2007

Tacoma, WA – Federal budget cuts are making it harder for people released from prison to start over and stay out of trouble. In Washington, the "Corrections Connection" program is being been told that $100,000 less will be available next year because of these cuts.

The program, with offices in Tacoma and Seattle, helps these people find jobs, housing and mentors. Its federal contract ends this month, and the U.S. Labor Department has warned that this program, and 29 others like it around the country, will receive less funding in any future contracts.

Corrections Connection Director Walter McKenzie says most people don't realize how big the need is for these types of services.

"Most incarcerated people, at some point, get out. In the state of Washington, you're talking about between 8,000 and 10,000 individuals who are released from prison and jails every year."

McKenzie says his group places more than half its clients in jobs within 30 days, adding that having employment and housing are the two biggest factors that keep people out of prison after they've served time. Part of the program involves community outreach, to change the mindsets of employers and landlords about people starting over.

"We tend to think of them as outcasts, when they're really our brothers, our cousins, our neighbors. And if they're unable to find a place to stay, if they're unable to find work, there are other costs to our communities."

Last month, the U.S. House passed the "Second Chance Act" (HR 1593), a bill to increase funding for post-prison reentry programs, but the Senate has yet to act on similar legislation (S 1060).

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA