Company aims to equip returning citizens with digital literacy, employment skills
Tech giant Google is expanding its position in the reentry arena by investing more than $8 million in programs and organizations providing assistance to people impacted by the justice system, including former prisoners, according to a recent TechCrunch article.
Last year, the company partnered with nonprofit organizations to launch their new Grow with Google Career Readiness for Reentry program, preparing former prisoners to enter the workforce and offering training in digital skills development.
“We co-created the program with five nonprofits who have a track record of successfully developing and delivering high-quality job training to returning citizens,” said Maab Ibrahim, Google.org’s Racial and Criminal Justice lead, in an email interview with TechCrunch.
“After implementing the program in 2021 and getting partner feedback, we saw what works really well and how we can have more impact.”
In June, Google followed through on their commitment, announcing the investment of more than $8 million, half of which is allocated to Grow with Google Career Skills, an ongoing collaboration with such powerhouse nonprofits as The Last Mile, Center for Employment Opportunities, and
Fortune Society. Funds will be made available in grants of up to $100,000 for charitable organizations that have not worked with Google in the past.
In addition, the company’s charitable division, Google.org, is offering another $4.25 million to state governments in an effort to help former offenders clear their criminal records, reduce barriers to employment, and even find employment through Columbia University’s Justice through Code program and the National Urban League’s Urban Tech Jobs Program.
“There’s a real urgency to this work,” said Ibrahim. “More than 640,000 people are released from prison each year in this country, and nearly all of them could benefit from the digital skills and job readiness training we’re offering through our partners.”
Digital literacy has been shown to play a role in reducing recidivism, the article reported. But in the digital age, most former offenders return to society with limited knowledge of technology, the internet, and digital literacy.
“Criminal records for many can be a life sentence to poverty, creating barriers to jobs, housing, education and more,” Ibrahim said.
Online job searches and resume builders are typically beyond the comprehension of returning citizens. Former offenders also struggle gaining access to government services and resources—such as subsidized medical insurance, employment assistance, and disability programs—which may require online applications. The University of Kansas recently reported that women leaving prison often have no understanding of online privacy—or how to protect it.
These are the factors Google and its partners are doing battle with. Since its inception, the company’s Career Readiness for Reentry has served more than 10,000 former prisoners. A survey of 400 participants found that, by the end of the program, 75% had either landed a job or were enrolled as a student.
Google hopes to reach 100,000 former offenders in the next three years, dramatically expanding digital literacy programs throughout state and federal prison systems.
“[W]e believe that companies, nonprofits and government working together can be a powerful force for good,” Ibrahim said. “That’s what we’re trying to facilitate here.”