Authors: Ladan Sobhani Contributors: Kinnus Paul, Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice Ladan Sobhani is the Program Manager for Communities of Practice Last month Green For All convened a Community of Practice working group of individuals from across the nation who train or employ people with barriers to employment, including formerly incarcerated individuals, in green jobs. Our goal for the two days was to identify the green sectors that are most accessible to this population, document the best practices for green transitional jobs and social enterprises, and identify policies on a national, state and local level that can expand opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. The programs that these individuals represent are creating pathways to reentry into society through jobs in recycling, brownfield remediation, landscaping, energy efficiency retrofitting, and deconstruction (the process of salvaging usable materials from a building rather than demolishing and dumping it), among other sectors. While much of our discussions revolved around the nuts and bolts behind policy or transitional jobs models, I was inspired by the heart and passion that drive these individuals to do the great work they do. I learned a lot about how difficult it is for someone to reenter society after prison, the enormous amount of debt people leave prison with (average $24,000!), and the type of support and training that programs like the ones we convened can provide to help our communities heal. I asked a couple of the working group members to share their experience with us for this blog – here’s the response I got:
From Kinnus Paul, Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice
I was invited to an invigorating convening about previously incarcerated people hosted by Green For All in Oakland, CA. You could tell from the agenda that this was a working meeting and Green for All was looking for answers. The excitement began to brew as we sat down for a meet and greet on Sunday evening. As we went around the table and introduced ourselves, we could see the wealth of knowledge and experience that our host was putting together to attack this issue. I got the sense that I was being recruited to join an elite force of well trained soldiers, all experts in their particular areas and all with the same passion for the work. On Monday morning as we began our assignment, our host acted as great facilitators, keeping us focused through each agenda item. With the wealth of knowledge of each subject that we discussed, it had to be a hard thing to orchestrate. As we covered topics from the landscape of green jobs to green social enterprise models, the experts in the room presented information and chimed in as needed to add to the conversation and/or give another point of view. I was extremely pleased with all of the things that we discussed and it gave me more tools to add to my tool box. I want to thank Green For All for making me a part of this discussion and I would like to thank all of my colleagues who attended this meeting and helped me overcome some issues that had me stumped.
From Gregg Keesling, Workforce, Inc, Indianapolis
I was recently invited to a Green For All gathering that brought together supporters and practitioners of efforts to simultaneously create jobs and to move formally incarcerated persons into these jobs. I was so thrilled to be a part of this gathering. I’ve felt in the past that those of us in the Midwest focused on recycling and reentry were sometimes overlooked, and that there are many opportunities in Midwestern cities like Indianapolis to grow green opportunities. Indianapolis only has a 2.5% penetration rate into household recycling. Our Mayor, Greg Ballard, has created an office of sustainability and is currently taking suggestions on ways to grow recycling, but only in ways that don’t increase cost and are cost neutral. We believe there are ways to reduce the current cost of trash removal, which is funded through property taxes, by expanding the curbside recycling and creating more neighborhood recycling centers as Workforce has done on the East side of the city. Green For All could be involved in these discussions and it is something I encourage to happen. I feel that some of the biggest impacts that could be obtained in the movement are where the recycling and prison reentry efforts are the weakest. I strongly encourage the leadership of organizations like Green For All and other groups focused on job creation for people coming home not to overlook the things that can be accomplished in the Midwest. There are many programs like ours who would welcome the help.Green For All is grateful to the Foundation to Promote Open Society for its support of this convening and the Community of Practice .