Reducing recidivism: bipartisan efforts for workforce development introduced by Rep Bourdeax
On Wednesday, February 23rd (2022), Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07) hosts a roundtable discussion at Gwinnett Technical College. Joined by members of the college administration, nonprofit, and state legislature communities, the focus is on bipartisan efforts to introduce new legislation to assist the incarcerated (as well as previously incarcerated) community with improved access to resources centered on obtaining employment or credentials in skilled and/or technical trades/fields.
State representative (for Georgia District 102) Gregg Kennard, Adam Forrand (Vice President for Education, Talent, and Leadership Development for Partnership Gwinnett), and Melvin Everson (Vice President of Economic Development at Gwinnett Technical College) are those who join Representative Bourdeaux at the main table/dias. Maxwell Ruppersburg (the Executive Director for Reform Georgia), along with Deidra Cox and Dr. Rhonda Anderson (from Community Sustainability Enterprise and NSPIRE Outreach) and the Georgia Center for Opportunity (Better Work Gwinnett)
are among those from the nonprofit and business community who are present.
The state of Georgia's incarceration rates (968 per 100,000) are the highest in the country; to put it in perspective, the United States' incarceration rate is 639 per 100,000, making Georgia's rate nearly 50% higher than the national rate.
Combined with an unemployment rate (for formerly incarcerated people) a nearly 30% (which is several times higher than the national average), there's a need for job training and related certifications for this demographic to be more employable.
Given the potential impact of pre and post-release employment services, this can not only lead to lower recidivism rates, but having a more educated and effective workforce. Given the need to fill jobs in fields including (but not limited to) construction, manufacturing, and technical fields, bridging the gap for "returning citizens" can result to win-wins across the business and larger community (note the Infrastructure, Innovation, and Jobs Act for additional points of reference).
A few goals of the Workforce Opportunity for Returning Citizens (WORC) Act (per the office of Representative Bourdeaux) are as follows:
Expand education and training programs leading to employment opportunities in skilled trades (such as welding, plumbing, and related fields) as well as attaining post-secondary education credentials.
Entities including local workforce boards, career/technical education schools, intermediaries (i.e. nonprofits), and collaboratives (between 2-year/trade/tech schools and the workforce/nonprofit communities) would be eligible to receive funding.
Congresswoman Bourdeaux emphasizes, "By providing these tools to help people get back on their feet, we can combat high rates of unemployment in recently released individuals and national workplace shortages".
The Vera Institute of Justice, Reform Georgia, NSPIRE Outreach, and Gwinnett Technical College are among the entities endorsing this piece of legislation. Congressman Jay Obernolte (R-CA-08) and Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) are the co-sponsors.
This is the part of the larger effort of Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux in identifying areas of concern and putting more in place for continued advocacy for economic recovery and interrelated components of her platform.
Through the roundtable and continued engagement, the hope is to generate "win-wins" for as many as possible within the district and beyond.
Notes: All video and photography is recorded by Andrew Snorton.
Video (in order of appearance):
Main discussion with Representative Bourdeaux and members of the dias/lead table (starting from the left: State Representative Gregg Kennard (District 102), Adam Forrand (Vice President of Partnership Gwinnett/Education, Talent, and Leadership Development), and Melvin Everson (Vice President of Economic Development/Gwinnett Technical College).
Deidra Cox and Dr. Rhonda Anderson (Community Sustainability Enterprise and NSPIRE Outreach) are among the nonprofit and related entities who provide feedback and input on the legislation in progress.
The panel concludes their roundtable and fields questions from the media (including our outlet).
Representative Kennard (District 102) shares his hopes for the work in progress.
VP Forrand provides his perspective on the collaborative efforts leading to the pending legislation.
Top block (left to right): Congresswoman Bourdeax (GA-07) and VP Everson; Representative Kennard (District 102) and VP Forrand, and concluding with a closeup Congresswoman Bourdeax.
Center block (left to right): Closeups of VP Everson, Representative Kennard (District 102), and VP Forrand.
Bottom block (left to right): Members of the Georgia Center for Opportunity (Better Work Gwinnett)/NSPIRE Outreach, and Community Sustainability Enterprise along with Reform Georgia and our view of the roundtable.