By Frederick H. Lowe
Ex-convicts have a difficult time getting jobs once they are released from jail or prison because of their involvement in the criminal justice system.
But jobs and other social service-support systems that are key to stabilizing their lives so they don’t return to crime are scarce and disappearing.
These are some of the conclusions reached in the research report, titled “Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map for Safer Communities”http://jointcenter.org/content/joint-center-report-engaging-communities-reducing-gun-violence, reported and written by the Urban Institute, The Joyce Foundation and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank for black-elected officials based in Washington, D.C.
The headline of one of the report’s sections is “Disinvestments in Communities of Color Reinforces Cycles of Violence.”
Urban Institute, Joyce Foundation and Joint Center members met with more than 100 community leaders in Richmond, Va., Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Stockton, Calif., to discuss violence plaguing their cities and how to end it.
“Across all three cities, participants noted a systemic lack of investment in communities of color, particularly in services needed to help people at high risk of engaging in violence become productive members of their neighborhoods,” the report said. “Representatives from government agencies and nonprofits reported substantial challenges finding and sustaining the resources needed to maintain social service programs that help formerly incarcerated people and those at high risk of committing violence.
When violence does occur, law enforcement responds in its usual way “with intrusive policing tactics and overreliance on incarceration, which damages police-community relations.”
The report touches on jobs, but it does not discuss deindustrialization in which employers close plants, lay off large numbers of workers before moving operations overseas to take advantage of cheap labor. The plant shutdowns are usually sparked by trade agreements.
Trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico and Canada, have become hot topics of discussion by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, and Donald Trump, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, before November’s presidential election.
President Bill Clinton successfully pushed through NAFTA, which was implemented January 1, 1994.
President Clinton claimed NAFTA would lead to an export boom from Mexico, creating 200,000 jobs in two years and millions of jobs in five years.
But 20 years later, trade deficits with Mexico eliminated 682,000 good jobs in the U.S., 61 percent of which were in manufacturing, the Washington D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute reported in a 2013 paper titled “NAFTA’s Legacy: Growing U.S. Trade Deficits Cost 682,000 Jobs” http://www.northstarnewstoday.com/news/5-million-u-s-manufacturing-jobs-lost-in-15-years/
The cost of not being able to find a job and the dearth of support services for former convicts is especially daunting for black men and boys, according to the Joint Center, the Joyce Foundation and the Urban Institute report.
In 2014, homicide was the leading cause of death for African-American boys and men ages 15 to 34, the study reported.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in March that the jobless rate for black men
20 years old and older was 8.7 percent, much higher than other racial and ethnic groups. Realistically, it might be much higher because the jobless rate only monitors people looking for work and many black men have given up looking because of repeated rejections.
Among 16 to 19 year olds, the jobless rate was 25.3 percent in March, BLS reported.
The Obama Administration recognizes the challenges faced by the nation’s 600,000 felons who are released annually from state and federal prisons.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Obama Administration have designated April 24 to 30 as National Reentry Week in which convicted felons are offered a number of services, including help to find work, at designated U.S. Bureau of Prison sites.
The Bureau of Prisons hosted mock interview sessions, resume-writing workshops and workshops on financial literacy.