Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Email: email@example.com
Ms. DeBow is the Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of the Chamber. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
With compassion in our hearts and rehabilitation in our thoughts, we believe that those most deserving of a second chance are people who have paid their debt to society.
That’s why we are proud to launch Project Rebound, an innovative program designed to change lives by placing former criminal offenders into meaningful jobs where they can contribute to society.
Our rededication to Project Rebound was inspired partly by a visit my wife, Kay, and I paid to two correctional centers in Florida. The facilities, both run by the GEO Group, displayed a commitment to helping people turn their lives around that we found truly inspiring. We had planned to host local business leaders to visit additional facilities in Houston and Indianapolis before the COVID pandemic made such visits impractical.
A brief look at the data shows the urgency of the problem. The U.S. prison population has soared 700 percent since the 1970s, and more than 600,000 people are released from U.S. state and federal prisons every year.
That’s where Project Rebound comes in. Our mission is to educate small businesses and other potential employers about prison employment training programs. The goal: to ease the path back, both for the returning offenders and for any employers who may harbor doubts about helping them.
In California, for example, an application-only program called The Last Mile provides inmates with intensive instruction on topics ranging from website building to entrepreneurship. When the student-inmates are released, The Last Mile meets them right outside the prison, helps them with clothing and housing — and gets to work on securing them productive jobs with decent pay.
The GEO company invests $10 million a year into this profoundly important mission, and there is growing evidence that it works: In one Florida facility more than one-third fewer ex-offenders returned to prison after participating in the Continuum of Care in comparison to those that chose not to participate.
While law-breakers should be punished, we also need to have compassion for those who stray from law and order – and help bring them back into the societal fold. Real prison reform and rehabilitation is critical to the welfare of our nation. We call on the business community and other partners to help us in the noble effort to make this reform a reality.
Please visit www.ProjectRebound.org and contact us if you are willing to help provide second chances to men and women returning from prison that are ready to become entrepreneurs.