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SNAP gets $1.2 million for ex-offender transition program

A $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor awarded to a Spokane nonprofit will be used to help ex-offenders transition into their communities, officials announced Tuesday.

SNAP – a private nonprofit social services agency – was one of 18 organizations nationwide to receive the grant. This is the fifth round of funding under the U.S. department’s Reintegration of Ex-Offenders-Adult program; more than $98 million has been awarded to date.

“A strong support network is the key for formerly incarcerated individuals to successfully transition back to their communities,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “These federal grants will help to establish this network, while also providing job training to ensure long-term stability and success.”

Julie Honekamp, SNAP’s chief executive officer, said, “From the greater SNAP perspective, when we look at programs like this we always (ask) … are we helping our clients move to greater self-sufficiency?”

The 27-month program’s goal is to serve 400 ex-offenders released to Spokane County, said Jordan Tampien, SNAP’s financial services manager.

By partnering with local organizations, including WorkSource, the program will provide employment instruction, money management and financial counseling, and help the ex-offenders complete a post-release plan, such as helping them with relicensing, getting connected with food stamps, housing, clothing and food, and connect participants with mental health services and substance abuse programs as needed.

SNAP employees will be working in the jails and prisons to offer prerelease plans, basically referring people to the program, according to the nonprofit. Additionally, SNAP employees will continue to remain in contact with the ex-offenders in case they need assistance.

“We won’t just be handing them a piece of paper and saying to go do these things. We will help them along the way,” Tampien said. “They’ve tested this assistance for ex-offenders in one area or another, but not by pairing all these services.”

He added, “The ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism and increase jobs for these folks.”

Currently, 43 percent of ex-convicts in Washington reoffend within a year of being released from prison.

According the Department of Labor, 709,000 people were released from state and federal prisons in 2010, “an increase of almost 20 percent from 2002. Research indicates that, without assistance to make a successful transition, the majority of former offenders return to criminal activity. This program aims to break that cycle.”

Said Tambien, “What’s unique about this grant is it’s focused on employment, and it helps a person move toward a sustainable future.”

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