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Mayor Bowser Announces New Programs to Support the District's Returning Citizens

Monday, September 14, 2015

A major component of Mayor Bowser's Safer, Stronger plan is recommitting ourselves to building pathways to the middle class. The Mayor is championing a mix of legislation and programs that will provide returning citizens with work readiness skills and experience.  As part of her effort, Mayor Muriel Bowser visited the DC Jail today, where she met with inmates and highlighted two new innovative training and professional development programs.

"These programs and forthcoming legislation will give our returning citizens the tools they need to get back on their feet as they transition back into society," said Mayor Bowser.  "Like all residents in the District, returning citizens deserve a pathway to the middle class.  Together, we will make sure they get one."

As part of her Safer, Stronger agenda, Mayor Bowser proposed the following programs to support returning citizens.  

  • Change the amount of "good time" credits a misdemeanor inmate may receive.
  • Allow inmates to earn up to three "good time" credits per month for good behavior and five "good time" credits for completion of rehabilitative programs, work detail and special projects.
  • Allow pre-trial misdemeanor inmates to be temporarily released from the DC Jail during work hours so they can keep working at their job while they serve their sentence.

Mayor Bowser will propose legislation in the coming days, and she calls on the Council to advance these proposals during the fall legislative session.

Earlier this summer, the District launched the pilot for the DC Jail Work Readiness Program, a partnership between the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Department of Employment Services (DOES) to provide six weeks of pre-release workforce training and development to male inmates at the District's Central Detention Facility.

"DOC is proud to be working in collaboration with DOES to offer those in our custody access to critical life skills and job readiness training," said DOC Director Tom Faust. "As another component of reentry programming at the jail, this initiative adds a vital link that strengthens opportunities for successful employment upon release."

Following their interview process and selection, program participants are granted separate housing units to support their 30-hour per week job readiness and life skills courses, and are provided case managers to supervise the transition to additional training or a direct job placement upon release.

In addition, MORCA and DOES has launched a new 14-week program with Events DC and the Congress Heights Community Training & Development Corporation (CHCTDC) for female returning citizens. During the first six weeks of the program, participants attend a customer service course provided by CHCTDC that focuses on key skills including professional etiquette, conflict management and digital literacy.

"It feels good to have an opportunity to have a chance to right our wrongs," said Kendra Penny, a participant in the program. "Programs like the one here at MORCA, designed specifically for women, have been long overdue."

The final eight weeks of the program will serve as a hands-on workforce development segment.  Participants will be given meaningful work experience, to assist in career exploration, future career identification and in some instances, the possibility of recruitment.  Participants will also be given access to mentors as well as an opportunity to experience a "Shadow Day" with Events DC staff, to gain greater knowledge of the roles of individuals who work within and outside Events DC.

"We fully support this special career development that focuses on our returning citizens. We're excited to be a part of this unprecedented initiative that will concentrate on employment training, career mentors, professional development with the possibility of recruitment," said Gregory A. O'Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC. "It is an honor to work with Mayor Bowser, MORCA, DOES and Congress Heights on this first-time ever, career cohort.  We believe this is a priceless opportunity for these women and will provide a meaningful work experience."

"The Department of Employment Services is proud to carry out Mayor Bowser's vision of supporting our returning citizens," said DOES Director Deborah A. Carroll. "Our agency and dedicated staff with Project Empowerment and Workforce Development look forward to the career prospects that await these men and women and their success as they start on a pathway to the middle class."

For more information about programs that support returning citizens, contact MORCA at (202) 715-7670.