Parolees Get a Second Chance in Detroit, Chicago, New York

It probably comes as no surprise that many parolees return to society without much of a support network—and certainly without a job. But businesses and organizations around the country are aiming to change all that. In New York City, the J.C. Flowers Foundation’s Circles of Support program provides moral support and job-readiness training for parolees in Harlem. Sakthi Automotive Group USA Inc. in Detroit, MI, recently announced its intention to boost employee ranks by hiring ex-offenders as part of a $60 million expansion of its southern Detroit facility. And in Chicago, St. Leonard’s Ministry provides desperately needed services for parolees by participating in the Back on My Feet program.

The J.C. Flowers Foundation, the philanthropic arm of financial services giant J.C. Flowers & Co., supports a variety of parolee initiatives in Harlem. Working in partnership with local faith communities and other nonprofits, the Foundation believes in applying “locally devised solutions” that help a “last mile” population often overlooked by other organizations. The Foundation’s Re-Entry Faith and Family Circles of Support and Network in the Community programs help recently released parolees and their families with all sorts of issues, including welcoming parolees back to the community, accompanying them to appointments and job interviews, and providing a wide range of emotional support groups. These programs also offer coaching in areas like job readiness, public speaking, and life skills.

Further west in Detroit, Sakthi Automotive Group USA Inc. is doing its part to help parolees in its local community. Their $60 million expansion will include hiring parolees, according to CEO Lalit Verma, who says the company has already hired 25 convicted felons within a six-month period. The ultimate goal, according to Verma, is to employ 650 parolee employees in the next several years. These new workers will likely be employed as CNC operators, hi-lo drivers, and maintenance workers, earning between $11 and $14 an hour. Sakthi has found that these employees are extremely dedicated and hardworking, so hiring them is of great value for both employee and employer.

Chicago parolees receive support through St. Leonard’s Ministries, which helps formerly incarcerated men return to their home communities. St. Leonard’s residency program provides programs that help these individuals prepare for successful, independent living. St. Leonard’s is also a participant in the Back On My Feet program, which provides running teams and other kinds of emotional and physical support for parolees reentering society and working for a more positive future.