When I was in federal prison, I witnessed firsthand how incarceration affects people's lives — even long after they're released. After my own release in 2015, I created The Ladies of Hope Ministries (The LOHM), which helps previously incarcerated women transition back into society through education, entrepreneurship, spiritual empowerment and advocacy.
In the U.S., more than 600,000 people make the transition from prisons to the community each year. While many are ready to start working, they often face systemic barriers to entering the workforce. The unemployment rate for people impacted by incarceration is five times the national average. Because of systemic racism in the justice system, this disproportionately impacts the Black community, who also experiences higher unemployment rates than any other racial group. Additionally, 82% of middle-skill jobs in the U.S. require digital proficiency, but many incarcerated individuals lack digital literacy after being removed from technology in prison. The research is clear: Ensuring people have jobs is key to helping them stay out of prison and contributes to our country’s economic health.
Everyone should have access to economic opportunity. That’s why my nonprofit, along with the Center for Employment Opportunities, Defy Ventures, Fortune Society and The Last Mile, is partnering with Google on the Grow with Google Career Readiness for Reentry program. This program will train more than 10,000 people who have been impacted by incarceration on digital skills they can use to get a job or start businesses. This initiative builds upon Google’s existing criminal justice work — which includes more than $40 million in Google.org grants to organizations advancing reform in the U.S. justice system over the last six years — and is part of Google’s racial equity commitment to help Black job seekers grow their digital skills.
The Grow with Google Career Readiness for Reentry program provides free training on digital fundamentals — like how to search and apply for jobs online, how to make a resume using web-based tools and how to send professional emails — as well as more advanced topics like including entrepreneurship and using spreadsheets to make a budget for your business. Several partners will also provide job placement support or help place learners into paid apprenticeships and entrepreneur-in-residence programs.
Partnering organizations like mine have worked with Google to develop the curriculum, designed as an easy-to-use guide to help community organizations deliver digital skills training to people returning from incarceration. Any nonprofit organization offering training to the reentry population can also join the Grow with Google Partner Program and access resources, workshop materials and hands-on help, completely free of cost.
We can’t change the past, but we can build toward a better tomorrow. The ability to secure a job or start a business can pave the way for a brighter future, and I’m thrilled to work with Google to give others like me the opportunity for a fresh start.