WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) reintroduced bipartisan legislation designed to bolster reentry initiatives that center on offering employment preparation, pre-workforce training, and vocational apprenticeship prospects. The Reentry Employment Opportunities Act, which Peters introduced with Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), would codify the U.S. Department of Labor’s Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program into law. The REO program is dedicated to supporting organizations on a national, regional, and local scale in their efforts to provide skill training programs. It facilitates a smoother transition for individuals reintegrating back into their communities after incarceration by equipping them with the necessary skills to secure meaningful employment.
“Over an extended period of time, individuals who have completed their sentences have been unfairly denied the opportunities to enter the job market and embark on a fresh start in their lives,” said Senator Peters. “The Reentry Employment Opportunities Act would boost existing skills training and apprenticeship programs and provide a second chance for people in Michigan and across the country who are reintegrating back into their communities after being incarcerated.”
The bill has been endorsed by the Center for Employment Opportunities, Detroit at Work, Rights4Girls, the Reentry Working Group, the Safer Foundation, and the National Youth Employment Coalition.
“Programs that meet returning citizens where they are and help them transition back to day-to-day life have been shown to be invaluable when it comes to reducing recidivism,” said Dana Williams, President and CEO of Detroit at Work. “Without access to such programs, individuals re-enter society often with fewer opportunities to live fully than when they offended in the first place. If we want former offenders to become productive members of their communities, they must have access to resources that develop the skills employers need, as well as the supportive services and guidance that make the transition sustainable.”
“CEO thanks Senators Peters and Braun for their leadership in introducing the Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) Act," said Sam Schaeffer, Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). “Every person coming home from incarceration should have the opportunity to find fulfilling employment and achieve economic mobility. The REO Act is one important step in reducing the tremendous personal and economic harm of prison by creating more job training opportunities for the more than half a million individuals released from prison each year.”
“Rights4Girls applauds Senators Peters and Braun for their leadership in introducing the Reentry Employment Opportunities Act,” said Yasmin Vafa, Executive Director, Rights4Girls. “This vital legislation represents a key bipartisan effort to assist vulnerable youth in acquiring the skills necessary to help support their wellbeing and enable them to successfully return to their communities and prevent further marginalization.”
“With continued federal investments, we can dismantle barriers to employment inhibiting justice-involved youth in pursuit of healthy and productive lives,” said Dr. Mary Ann Haley, Executive Director, National Youth Employment Coalition. “We applaud Senator Peters and Senator Braun for having introduced the Reentry Employment Opportunities Act, ensuring skills training programs are well-equipped with programmatic support and funding to bolster employment outcomes for justice-involved youth nationwide.”
Currently, the REO program exists as a pilot program authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The First Step Act – which Peters supported and helped enact – reauthorized the REO program when it was signed into law in 2018. However, because it currently exists as a pilot program, it does not have a dedicated funding stream and is funded through a piecemeal approach. This bipartisan bill would codify into law the REO program and provide it greater stability for the future.
Peters has led numerous efforts to expand access to skills training opportunities, including through securing federal funding for community colleges in Michigan, including Mott Community College, Grand Rapids Community College, and Macomb Community College