Last April, Google launched Grow with Google Career Readiness for Reentry, a program created in partnership with nonprofit organizations to prepare for work and teach digital skills to previously incarcerated individuals. As part of the expansion, Google today announced that it is investing just over $8 million in organizations helping people who have been “hurt by justice,” including ex-convicts, find jobs.
While continuing to work with nonprofits including The Last Mile, Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), Defy Ventures, Fortune Society, and The Ladies of Hope Ministries, Google says $4 million of the roughly $8 million in new investment the company is investing will go to to develop with Google. Career skills designed to help people who have been affected by the justice system develop professional specializations. Nonprofits that Google has not previously partnered with will be able to apply for a grant of up to $100,000 to “offer Google re-entry skills training for their community.”
Meanwhile, Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, will provide $4.25 million in grants to help state governments lower barriers to employment with the Code for America Clear My Record tool, which uses an open source algorithm to view records and applying for a permit. Other grants from Google.org will be used to help “justice victims” find jobs through the National Urban League’s Urban Tech Jobs Program and Columbia University’s Justice Through Code program.
In an email interview with TechCrunch, Maal Ibrahim, head of racial and criminal justice at Google.org, said that Google has always strived to scale the Career Readiness for Reentry program. “This work is very relevant – more than 640,000 people are released from prison every year in this country, and almost all of them can benefit from the digital skills training and job preparation that we offer through our partners,” he added. “We developed the program with five non-profit organizations that are successfully developing and delivering high-quality vocational training for returning citizens. After implementing the program in 2021 and receiving feedback from partners, we have seen what works really well and how we can make a bigger impact.”
The previously incarcerated community faces many challenges, including a lack of digital skills. Prisoners can live for more than ten years without access to technologies such as smartphones and have only limited exposure to the Internet. For example, 2014 US Department of Education data showed that 62% of correctional education programs in the country did not allow inmates access to the Internet.
Finding a job or building a resume using web tools is beyond the comprehension of some ex-prisoners. According to a recent study by the University of Kansas study, many women coming out of prison find it difficult to learn basic skills such as protecting their online privacy. Lack of literacy also hinders ex-prisoners’ ability to access government services, which often require online applications.
Ibrahim argues that programs like Career Readiness for Reentry can make a difference with a curriculum designed to be integrated into nonprofit partner programs. “Given Google’s technology expertise, one of our main focuses is helping people learn digital skills,” he said. “[W]We believe that companies, nonprofits, and governments can work together as a powerful force for good. That’s what we’re trying to promote here.”
Studies have shown that digital literacy can reduce recidivismor recidivism. But there are grounds for skepticism. When asked how many of the 10,000 ex-prisoners enrolled in Career Readiness for Reentry programs last year found work, Ibrahim countered.
The effort was thwarted by the pandemic, which forced several Google partner organizations, including The Last Mile and Defy Ventures, to move from in-person to remote learning. A Google spokesperson later told TechCrunch that from a survey of 400 Career Readiness for Reentry participants, 75% said they had a job or were enrolled as students by the end of the program.
Ibrahim argues that the expanded program could have a lasting impact thanks to a new built-in team of Google.org employees who will work with nonprofits or civic organizations to create “tech solutions.” One of their first projects is an end-to-end automated record cleanup service built on top of the existing Clear My Record, which they will develop, pilot, and deploy with Code for America.
Google’s grand goal is to help 100,000 ex-prisoners acquire professional skills by 2025. To achieve this goal, the tech giant will need to promote massive expansion of access to digital literacy programs in federal and state prisons. Highlighting this issue, New York State has offered three digital literacy degree programs covering 1,400 places as of March 2020. In New York, over 77,000 people are being held in New York State and City Correctional Institutions.
“A criminal record for many can be a life sentence of poverty, creating barriers to work, housing, education and more,” Ibrahim said. “There are so many great organizations working in this area, but we know that no single organization can reach everyone in need… As we continue to refine and evaluate this work, we hope to be able to scale it further. coming years.”
Credit: techcrunch.com /