$1-M Grant Helps MI Works Provide Jail Transition Assist Through Second Chance Program

Citizens returning to their community following completion of a jail sentence will get help going forward from a new Michigan Works! Second Chance Program for re-assimilation assistance.

The team at Michigan Works! announced today that they are done with the planning phase of a $1 million grant and are beginning to provide comprehensive services to returning citizens who are transitioning out of the Berrien County Jail and back into their communities. The goal of the four-year Second Chance program is to reduce the recidivism rate and enhance public safety.

The new Second Chance Program will provide or facilitate a myriad of training and support services to participants including employment readiness, financial literacy, adult education – literacy/GED, anger management, domestic violence, substance abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mentoring. The funding will also allow program staff to receive training in case management, transition and offender workforce development, trauma-informed practices, and technology.

Director of Offender Services for Michigan Works!, Derek Knuth, says, “This grant was awarded to us in 2019 by the Department of Justice and we have been in the planning phase of the grant from October 2019 to October 2020. Our goal is to not only help those returning to our communities from prison, but also to assist additional individuals, helping them avoid state incarceration. It is our objective that all people involved in the justice system will have the tools needed to succeed.” Knuth adds, “This grant will help us provide those tools, prepare returning citizens to be competitive in the workforce, and change the course for a new chapter of their lives.”

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Michigan Works! Berrien, Cass, Van Buren was one of only 7 nationwide in its category funded in the 2019 grant cycle. This four-year program is being facilitated in collaboration with local stakeholders such as the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Jail, the Michigan Department of Corrections local Probation Office, Berrien County Public Defender’s Office and more. Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice will serve as a research partner and will conduct an independent evaluation of the program.

Michigan Works! is no stranger to reentry programming. The local team has been running the Offender Success program, previously known as Prisoner Reentry, since 2006, funded through the Michigan Department of Corrections. The Offender Success program in southwest Michigan focuses on keeping local communities safer through coordinated support and supervision for individuals returning home from prison.

The existing southwest Michigan Offender Success program is delivered through Michigan Works! Berrien, Cass, Van Buren and serves all of region eight, which includes Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren counties. The organization partners with the Michigan Department of Corrections, Mental and Behavioral Health course providers, area businesses and community organizations to deliver services for returning citizens.

The Offender Success program has delivered more than 24,000 services in four main categories including residential stability, health and behavioral health, social support, and employment services. Since April of 2017, the Michigan Works! Offender Success program has served 2,000 returning citizens across 25 cities. In addition, the program has delivered a 60-percent region-wide job placement rate, helping over 400 individuals find sustainable employment.

Michigan Works! of Berrien, Cass, Van specializes in educating, training, and employing individuals of all ages. They work with local businesses to find out what keeps them up at night and help them tackle the most pressing challenges they may face, including attracting and retaining talent. For more information, you can visit http://www.miworks.org.