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$4.5 million boost for program that helps ex-offenders find jobs

Safer Foundation President Victor Dickson announces Sunday, July 16, 2017, that his organization is being awarded a $4.5 million grant to help ex-cons get jobs. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

A West Side nonprofit that helps ex-inmates obtain jobs and other life skills announced Sunday it is the recipient of a $4.5 million federal grant.

The Safer Foundation will use the money to help provide job training to nearly 600 people ages 25 and older in industries such as health care, transportation, construction and advanced manufacturing.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Our goal is provide a comprehensive set of services, including housing, substance treatment, education, vocational training, job readiness and employment placing because we know that private sector employment breaks the cycle of recidivism,” Safer Foundation President Victor Dickson said at a news conference held in the North Lawndale neighborhood at one of two minimum security work-release centers the organization operates for the Illinois Department of Corrections.

“We know that nothing stops a bullet like a job. And reducing recidivism is reducing crime,” Dickson said.

The work-release facilities house 550 inmates finishing the last two years of their prison sentences. About 80 percent of the residents in the two facilities work private sector jobs during their stay, he said.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis also attended the news conference and thanked God for the Safer Foundation.

Davis pointed out that many inmates who struggle to earn a living return to the activities that land them behind bars in the first place.

“It pains me when I drive down the street and see some good looking young fellas, hollering, ‘Crack and dope! Pills and thrills! Whatever it is you need I got!’ They don’t have to do that if we teach them other ways,” Davis said.