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At Heitkamp’s Urging, Federal Funds Announced to Help Offenders Successfully Reenter Communities After Returning from Prison

BISMARCK, N.D. – At her urging, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today announced that the U.S. Department of Justice will award $4 million in federal funds to bolster reentry efforts nationwide for offenders exiting prison and detention facilities who rejoin society.

About 95 percent of incarcerated individuals are released at some point, and they then have to find jobs and housing, and reintegrate into their communities.  Yet, after reentry, former offenders are often prone to struggling with substance abuse, not enough education or job skills, few housing options, and mental health issues. Unfortunately, for many, their reentries are unsuccessful, hurting those individuals who go back to prison and costing taxpayers more money.  This week, the Justice Department announced a new effort to connect individuals returning home with job training resources to specifically help them prepare for positions in technology and related fields that are in demand in today’s economy.

At a Senate Indian Affairs hearing in February, Heitkamp urged North Dakota’s U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon to promote reentry programs and find ways make sure Native Americans returning from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities stay on track when they arrive back home.  Purdon agreed and reinforced that the Justice Department is focused on these programs and discussed how he is working to expand these programs to also focus more on Indian Country. 

“As a former Attorney General, I understand the importance of holding individuals accountable for their crimes,” said Heitkamp.  “But the vast majority of those sent to prison or other detention facilities will leave at some point and rejoin society.  They absolutely need to pay their dues, but in order to live, they also need to find homes and get jobs. The importance of this transition is too often overlooked.  Since my time as North Dakota’s Attorney General, I’ve been working to draw more attention to and support for programs in Indian Country and across North Dakota that help ease this transition, encourage offenders to avoid committing more crimes, and help enable them to contribute to society.  These new funds from the Department of Justice are another important step to helping make this goal possible for more individuals.”

The Justice Department’s new effort will promote reentry programs nationwide by supporting six Second Chance technology career training programs. These programs will offer certification opportunities in line with local labor markets.  The programs will help prepare individuals for careers in green- and renewable-energy technologies, and connect community agencies with local universities to provide transitional services and training related to employment readiness.