Goodwill industries providing hope and help to convicted felons

Published: Oct. 14, 2019 at 11:31 PM EDT
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Goodwill Industries works to convicted felons get back into the workforce. The non-profit recently received a $1 million grant from the Department of Justice for a program aimed at providing training and treatment behind bars.

The program is called Stay the Course. The idea is to have case workers and other navigators inside county and regional jails and state prisons, connecting with convicted felons and offering them help before release.

Senator Rob Portman helped secure funding through the Second Chance Act. Since 2009 the legislation has helped fund $39 million in grant money for Ohio re-entry programs.

Amanda Huckleberry was convicted of felony theft three years ago, since then she has been working to find permanent housing, a job and transportation with the help of Goodwill.

She attributes her success of staying away from the streets to her caseworker, Samantha. Huckleberry says when she was released, after serving 7 months in prison, she had no job, no house and no car.

"I went from having everything to nothing," says Huckleberry.

Today, Senator Rob Portman heard some of the success stories linked to the local program and also address areas where there are gaps.

For Huckleberry, while she is receiving job training, housing and transportation continue to be an issue. Portman says he wants to introduce the Jobs Act again to Congress as another way to guarantee employment after incarceration, potentially making securing a home and a vehicle easier for those with nothing.

Portman says he wants federal Pell Grants to not only cover the cost of colleges and universities but skilled trade training jobs and certification programs. He believes this will help those convicted of a crime get back into the workforce quickly and be able to earn a living wage for positions that are in dire need of qualified workers.