INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis-based company that helps Hoosiers returning home from incarceration is receiving millions of dollars to help high risk young adults.
RecycleForce is receiving $4.5 million from the the U.S. Department of Labor Youth Adult Reentry Partnership grant to help connect 550 people, ages 18-24, who have been involved in the justice system with employment.
"380 of them will be here in Indianapolis. You know we have a pretty significant crime problem and many of the people that are involved in crime or justice involved, many are 18 to 24," RecycleForce President Gregg Keesling said.
Breaking down barriers to employment and providing services for ex-offenders is the primary goal at RecycleForce.
"My lifestyle is kind of hard. I was into street violence," RecycleForce employee Dayron Tinsley said. "I've been coming here, staying out the streets, staying out the way, making my mama proud," he said.
The grant will also help 100 people in Bloomington and 70 in Gary, people like Antoine Hope, who was in juvenile detention at 16-years-old after a home invasion.
"I see this as a big opportunity for growth and to learn new skills and just become a man, just start taking care of my responsibilities, and then hopefully I can move away from this job and go to a better job," Hope said.
A goal of the Young Adult Reentry Partnership Grant is to help RecycleForce strengthen partnerships to provide opportunities for those they serve.
"The prosecutors office is partnering in this, Marion County Probation, Marion County Community Corrections, the parole office, Employ Indy, Ivy Tech, we're all partners and we can align the services to wrap around the highest at risk," Keesling said.
"Right now I'm working on my certificate for CLA and CDL and that's a great opportunity right now because I would have never had those opportunities, especially excelling the way I am if it wasn't for them," RecycleForce employee Chiragh Atre said.
Leaders believe by connecting those who are at high risk of committing crimes to resources and employment, it ultimately gives them hope and in return it will have an impact on the community as a whole.
During a press conference announcing the award at RecycleForce, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said we are presented with a number of challenges in the county and a lot of it goes back to issues of crime.
"The one thing I've learned in this position as being the Marion County Prosecutor is this, when you give people hope and opportunity and you invest in people, they do not commit crimes. When you give people jobs, they do not commit crimes," Mears said.
"It will no doubt help hundreds of young people in our city access a pathway to progress and into productive and rewarding lives, and we all deserve that," Mayor Hogsett said.
RecycleForce employee, Justin Holman, grew up with Kessling's son, Chancellor, who died in Iraq. Keesling has photos up of Chancellor throughout RecycleForce as a way to honor him. Holman says he's always known about the work the Keeslings were doing but never needed it, until he got arrested for reckless homicide.
"I just bonded out and this was not just part of my stipulation, but I was already looking forward to doing this," Holman said. "It's a blessing because for one its like a family and that's what make it better for a job and everything they offer, from certifications you can get, to helping with mental health, they can help with anything."
"Transitional employment is a big part of the federal system, I wish our state did more of it," Keesling said. "We have such a labor shortage and within these marginalized population there's really good people that could be very productive. They just need some help moving through."