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Grant boosts workforce council program for ex-offenders

The Clackamas Review

Making the transition from jail inmate to productive citizen will be easier for 300 adults in Clackamas County thanks to a federal grant announced last week.

The U.S. Department of Labor provided $1.5 million to the Workforce Investment Council of Clackamas County to provide assistance for ex-offenders as they make the transition back to their communities. The grant was part of nearly $12 million in funds distributed to nine nonprofit organizations across the country.

The Workforce Investment Council will use grant funds to provide job training that leads to credentials in high-demand industries, employment preparation and mentoring, along with a connection to services such as housing, substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Assistance with parenting and child reunification will also be offered and funded with the grant.

The funds will help up to 300 individuals leaving incarceration and returning to Clackamas County. The program will target ex-offenders with a history of sexual and physical abuse, family turmoil, learning disabilities and mental health or substance disorders.

While both men and women will be recruited for the program, the emphasis will be on recruitment of female ex-offenders.

Recruitment for the program will include referrals from parole and probation officers, judges, service agencies and self-referral. Case managers will also go into the Clackamas County Jail each week to provide orientation to eligible participants.

"In normal economic times, it is a challenge to move ex-offenders from prison to work. But clearly it is a win-win if we can keep people from returning to jail by helping them get a job," said Kim Parker, executive director of the Workforce Investment Council. "Clackamas County partners have been talking about increasing services to this population for a couple of years - this grant application came at the perfect time."