Ford Foundation and partners announce $250 million commitment to easing the path from prison to workforce
LaTanicia Rogers needed a lot of things when she was released from federal prison last May.
After serving 10 years of a 15-year sentence for Medicare fraud, Rogers was released early as covid-19 overran the prison where she was incarcerated. She saw guards and inmates become ill, and a woman in an adjacent cell died of the virus. She was grateful to have survived the pandemic, but returning home in the middle of the corresponding economic downturn presented a new set of challenges for Rogers.
“When I got home, my husband was living paycheck to paycheck, and there were all of these things I needed,” said Rogers, 45. “I needed everything. I had nothing. I needed clothes, food, hygiene products, glasses, I had made all kinds of doctors appointments. I had doctors appointments for months.”
Prisons and jails have become a ‘public health threat’ during the pandemic, advocates say but jobs were scarce for everyone, let alone for felons. The situation was overwhelming for Rogers, so she turned to her case manager at Total Community Action, a New Orleans-based nonprofit organization that provides services for people returning home from prison. Her case manager suggested a new program called the Covid-19 Returning Citizen Stimulus Initiative, which was working with reentry programs in 28 cities to provide cash assistance to people released from prison during the pandemic.
It all sounded too good to be true to Rogers, but she applied and soon received a payment, then another and another. All told, she received nearly $3,000 at a critical moment in her life, making her one of about 10,000 people who received money provided by a new philanthropic campaign called the Justice and Mobility Fund.
The fund, a partnership between the Ford Foundation, Blue Meridian Partners, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, on Wednesday announced a $250 million commitment to support organizations that work to improve the economic outlook for people exiting the nation’s criminal justice system.
In addition to the Covid-19 Returning Citizen Stimulus Initiative that supported Rogers, foundation dollars also will go to advocacy groups working to change policy, such as enacting laws that automatically expunge some criminal records as well as supporting and establishing programs that work directly with formerly incarcerated people to help them rejoin the labor force.