Earlier today, Sheriff Maciol was honored to be part of a $1.2 million dollar U.S. Department of Labor grant announcement to kick off the “Beginnings” program that will be based out of the Oneida County Jail.

With the support of corrections, law enforcement and community leaders, the Workforce Development Board of Herkimer, Madison and Oneida County today kicked off its Beginnings project to provide critical employment and support services for previously incarcerated young adults as they make the transition back into their communities. The project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Utica area was one of only about 40 in the nation selected for the program.

The project will target young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who are incarcerated at the Oneida County Jail or under the supervision of the Oneida County Department of Probation.

“We are very grateful for the Department of Labor’s support in our efforts to ensure that all parts of our community have the opportunity to overcome adversity and create a better life,” said Workforce Development Board Executive Director Alice Savino. “During this grant, we will be helping 300 young adults with job training services, counseling to help them deal with changing their attitudes, and educational support so they can turn their lives around.”

Savino noted that the project will include partnerships with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, Oneida County Department of Probation, Kids Oneida, Mohawk Valley Community College, Legal Aid of Mid York and BOCES.

“The WDB appreciates the tremendous leadership that the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office showed in this project. Sheriff Robert Maciol and his staff worked very diligently with our staff to help us focus in upon the problems of young offenders and develop solutions so that the time these young adults spend in the jail can be a time they make the change they need to make,” Savino said.

She also noted that the program has strong community partnerships.

“Oneida County’s Probation Department and Kids Oneida have been outstanding partners in our past efforts to work with young people who still have decades of life ahead of them so that they can deal with the problems in their lives and move forward to have good jobs,” she said.

Partners on hand for the kickoff of the project said it meets a need.

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol said: “Many of the young offenders we see are unable to find employment because they lack significant work histories and work skills. We know from our work with these young adults in the jail that far too many come in with educational and behavioral deficits. Without means of financial support or family and community networks, these individuals are at high risk of returning to crime. This project can help us break that cycle.”

Oneida County Probation Department Director David Tomidy said: “This project will be an important partner in our efforts in the community. Finding employment can ensure that a first- time offender does not become a repeat offender. This saves not only thousands of dollars for law enforcement, but also preventing thousands of new victimizations each year, with associated psychological, physical and material costs to our community.”

Kids Oneida Executive Director Steve Bulger said: “Kids Oneida is dedicated to helping youth on the margins of society move into the mainstream by taking control of their lives. Many of the people this project will serve have been victims in a number of ways before they went to jail. Helping them address their many barriers to success is a challenging project, but as a community, we cannot give up on these youth. The success of our work can have implications that change many lives.”

Legal Aid Executive Director Paul Lupia said: “When young adults return to the community and their family networks, they are often ensnared in legal issues that they cannot resolve on their own, often related to either money, custody of a child, or both. We can provide these young adults with the advice and support they need to ensure that once they have paid their debt to society, they are not sidetracked by legal issues.”

The project will provide services including job training that leads to credentials in high- demand industries; employment preparation; mentoring; supportive services such as housing, and substance abuse and mental health treatment; family counseling; and assistance with parenting and child reunification. Providing guidance and support in addition to job training gives previously incarcerated young adults the stability necessary to improve their educational and employment outcomes, including increasing high school graduation rates, improving literacy and math skills, and entering college and/or other postsecondary training and employment.

“Many young adults who enter prison were economically marginalized when they went into jail, and they face substantial challenges when they return,” Savino said. “From a public safety perspective, it is important that offenders are reintegrated into the community – if they are not, they are a very real source of potential crime. From an economic development perspective, this program helps us maximize the potential of our workforce and address the needs of employers for workers who are motivated to succeed.”

"Individuals, families, communities and our economy as a whole are better off when the transition from the justice system to employment is successful," said Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta in announcing the grant awards. "These reentry programs are designed to break the cycle of recidivism by providing assistance toward achieving meaningful employment."