State Receives Grant to Work with Federal Inmates in Memphis

Tennessee Office of Reentry to Provide Employment Assistance with Federal Funding
Monday, October 23, 2023 | 12:45pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Office of Reentry (TOOR) will soon begin working with federal inmates returning to communities in the Memphis area. The office, which is part of the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, will assist justice-involved individuals in reentering Tennessee’s workforce in an effort to curb recidivism.

TOOR will receive $6.7 million in federal funding over four years through the Partnerships for Reentry Opportunities in Workforce Development (PROWD) grant. The money, $4.4 million from the U.S. Department of Justice and $2.3 million from the U.S. Department of Labor, will allow TOOR to provide employment services to federally incarcerated individuals returning to Memphis.

Through PROWD, TOOR will improve employment outcomes for individuals directly impacted by the justice system, strengthen communities by reducing recidivism, and increase the capacity of justice and workforce system partnerships.

“When we started the Tennessee Office of Reentry in 2021, we focused on assisting justice-involved individuals from our county jails and state penitentiaries in overcoming barriers to employment,” said Dr. William Arnold, TOOR Director. “Partnering with PROWD allows TOOR to expand its reach to individuals in the federal incarceration system and therefore have a broader, national impact by providing successful workforce-based reentry strategies and partnerships. It is truly a game changer.”

PROWD is a historic collaboration between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Labor (DOL). Launched in September 2022 with an approximately $45 million investment, seven states partnered with federal correctional facilities to offer tailored services to people incarcerated in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities. The program leverages BOP’s experience in reducing recidivism with the expert knowledge that state workforce agencies and local partners have about the specific needs of employers where PROWD participants are released.

With this funding, TOOR can provide opportunities for state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations, to collaborate and share resources to improve outcomes for individuals directly impacted by the federal justice system.

TOOR will provide reentry services to persons incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) of Memphis and the Residential Reentry Center (RRC) Diersen Charities with release dates within 36–48 months of enrollment and continue comprehensive services post-release. The goal is to incorporate a seamless transition of reentry services from pre- to post-release.

TOOR is jobs-driven and builds connections with local employers, enabling transitioning participants to secure employment. Pre-release services include needs assessments, individual development plans, comprehensive case management, career exploration and planning, job preparation, counseling, and assistance connecting participants to the social services required to transition to their communities.

Post-release activities include connecting participants to employers, including apprenticeship opportunities, external service providers, skill-building services, occupational training in in-demand industries, industry-recognized credentials, career services, and supportive and follow-up services.

TOOR will partner with FCI Memphis, Diersen Charities, Greater Memphis Local Workforce Development Board, and the National Reentry Workforce Collaborative.