House of Correction loses out on DOL reentry grant

Program would have helped nearly 200 in targeted zip codes

The Milwaukee County House of Correction lost out on a $1.5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant that would have helped young adults reenter the workforce.

The Department of Labor announced nearly $72.8 million in Reentry Program grants to 32 programs on Tuesday.

Milwaukee County’s grant would have funded a three-year project to help a minimum of 188 residents returning to the community in 11 targeted zip codes with high levels of poverty and crime. It would have been targeted towards young adults ages 18 to 24 reentering the community after being involved in the juvenile or adult justice system.

The House of Correction had sought county board approval to accept the grant along with the creation of four new positions funded by it. The positions would have included three with the title “Human Service Worker” and one “Program and Community Coordinator.”

The reentry program was supposed to use “evidence-based and informed interventions or new interventions that theory or research suggests are promising to improve employment outcomes,” according to May 25 memo from House of Correction superintendent Michael Hafemann to Milwaukee County board chair Theo Lipscomb Sr.

In another memo Hafemann wrote that the House of Correction does not have staff with the skills needed to manage the project.

“HOC is confident this comprehensive model of utilizing workforce and criminal justice research and promising practices will lead to the twin objectives of fostering sustained employment for individuals while promoting community safety through a reduction in recidivism,” Hafemann wrote in a memo last week.

Hafemann also appeared confident the county would receive the funding, writing in a June 23 memo to Lipscomb that the House of Correction “applied for and was awarded” the grant.

But Kathryn Cox, development manager in the county’s Office of African American Affairs, emailed Hafemann and others Wednesday that the county would not be receiving the funding.

“It appears that no one in Milwaukee – or Wisconsin – were awarded a grant either,” Cox wrote. “Which is unfortunate as it means that no money will be coming into the community to serve returning citizens.”

“I have not received feedback for the grant, but will request it so that we can discern how to improve our competitiveness for future grant opportunities,” Cox added.

The House of Correction has withdrawn its request to the county board for a resolution accepting the grant and a pervious measure creating the new positions was held in committee.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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