A workforce reentry and development program that focuses specifically on the reentry and employment needs of Black women is getting a major financial boost. U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, and Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) approved funding in the amount of $900,000 for PIVOT. A nonprofit organization, PIVOT provides formerly incarcerated Black women with critical resources as they prepare to return to their communities.

“PIVOT has an impressive record of success in helping formerly incarcerated Black women get a fresh start,” said Senator Van Hollen. “With the $900,000 federal grant we secured, PIVOT will be able to offer its holistic career training and workforce development program to help more women rejoin our communities. Investing in programs like these is crucial to giving returning citizens the support they need to get a second chance.”  

PIVOT’s program is one of the only of its kind in Maryland, focusing specifically on the reentry and employment needs of Black women. The curriculum includes group learning and individual case management, as well as personal success coaching and career counseling. PIVOT partners with corrections, law enforcement, employers, and transitional housing organizations, among others, to assist with every possible need upon participants’ reentry. Participants in PIVOT’s programs have an employment placement rate of 70 percent and a recidivism rate of less than 5 percent.

 “We provide supportive services, personal success coaching, and workforce development to any woman who has been impacted by the criminal justice system and is looking to get a new start,” said Veronica Jackson, executive director of PIVOT. “I was so happy when I received the email informing us we had received this funding. So much funding goes into male reentry programs, and oftentimes helping women in the judiciary system is overlooked. We’re often fighting for scraps just to help these women and keep our program open.”

PIVOT Executive Director Veronica Jackson.

PIVOT will also work in partnership with PREPARE, a parole preparation nonprofit that provides pre-release services and reentry planning as part of the parole process.

“One of the great things this funding will allow us to do is to support programming in prison and actually go behind the walls,” said Jackson. “This will allow us to start working with women before they even come home. So, this funding allows us to expand our space to begin a workforce and personal development in the prison. Another thing is that it will provide supportive services.”

  She added, “Oftentimes, people don’t think about the transition for a woman once she comes home after incarceration. It costs money for her after she returns home. There’s food and housing. She often has a lot of responsibilities before she even gets her release papers, especially when it comes to reunification. These monies will help us to support many families and women who are struggling to reclaim their lives because of financial barriers or other hindrances. This funding will also help us to maintain and sustain our staff so we can continue to keep the doors open.”

Jackson said she will now be able to hire additional staff and more.

“We can now support the women we serve in a more solid, financial way such as helping with a security deposit, the transportation she needs, the childcare she needs, or all of those things.”

Located at 1725 East Baltimore St. in Baltimore, PIVOT creates an ecosystem of opportunity including access to housing, transportation, mental health care, addiction treatment, family services, job training, job placement, and community connections. PIVOT brings together employers, service providers, government agencies, nonprofits, faith-based groups and community members at large to help change perceptions and reduce the stigma of incarceration that follows women for a lifetime.

PIVOT conducts an eight-week program followed by six months of intensive personal success coaching (case management) and ongoing alumni support. Jackson said PIVOT applied for the grant and that the monies will soon be dispersed.

“From the depths of my heart and all of the women, I am so grateful for this funding,” she said. “I’m so grateful that the lawmakers were courageous enough to be the champions and say, ‘let’s take this money and fund a program in Baltimore City that is working with women’. What many people don’t understand is working with a woman not only changes the trajectory of that woman’s life, but it changes the trajectory of that woman’s family and the generations to come.”

She added, “Our main goal is to help that woman and her family heal and move forward. If she and her family can heal and move forward, she’s able to heal the generations coming behind her. I am just so grateful that the lawmakers championed and advocated for this funding so that we can continue to do the amazing work that we set out to do.”

For more information about PIVOT, visit https://www.pivotprogram.org/

Ursula V. Battle
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