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Walmart, NAACP Create Educational Pathways For Formerly Incarcerated


Last updated on September 13th, 2022 at 02:15 pm

Walmart and NAACP are taking action to help people of color attempting to return to society after paying their debt in the criminal justice system.

Jelahn Stewart, VP of global ethics and compliance, and Regine Moore, director of constituent relations at Walmart, said that many people have witnessed inequitable outcomes for people of color in the criminal justice system. The long-term, cumulative impact that criminal justice disparities have on communities of color can have lasting, damaging effects.

Obtaining an education or trade skills to secure gainful employment is often one of the biggest challenges.

“At Walmart, we believe access to education is a pathway to opportunity and should be open to everyone,” they said.

Walmart and NAACP have announced the Empowering a Better Tomorrow scholarship powered by Walmart to assist in the creation of pathways for those returning citizens who want to further their education as they re-enter society. The scholarship will provide 20 recipients with a $5,000 award, for a total of $100,000 in scholarships paid.

“This is the first time a public company and the NAACP have teamed up to offer a scholarship of this kind, with the award sponsored by Walmart,” Stewart and Moore stated in an article on Walmart’s website. “The scholarship will be available to the formerly incarcerated or those who have recently been convicted and who have completed their sentence.  Returning citizens who are awarded the scholarship will have exhibited qualities of leadership, commitment to change and a desire to give back to their community.”

Walmart is using this scholarship initiative as part of its effort to “reduce bias, incarceration and recidivism by using our scale, influence and access to stakeholders to drive long-lasting racial equity in the criminal justice system.”

Many formerly-incarcerated citizens face challenges in obtaining housing, employment and other critical social services, which can result in significant financial struggles.

“What exacerbates these struggles is that many returning citizens leave the system without the skills or education to obtain stable, gainful employment,” Stewart and Moore stated. “While learning a new trade or obtaining a college degree are strong enablers to success, the cost can often be out of reach.”

A lack of support systems for formerly incarcerated individuals has contributed to long-term unemployment and recidivism. According to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Prison Policy Initiative, 75 percent of re-entrants are unemployed one year after being released. Further, 75 percent of re-entrants are back behind bars within five years, according to the Deloitte Center for Government Insights.

According to a report published by The Prison Policy Initiative, the disparities are starkest for Black Americans, who make up 40 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population, yet represent only 13 percent of U.S. residents. Additionally, research from The Sentencing Project suggests that Black Americans are incarcerated at roughly five times the rate of white Americans.

“Changing these outcomes will not just benefit returning citizens, but society as a whole,” Stewart and Moore stated. “In doing so, we also seek to make a positive impact in support of returning citizens, their families and the communities we serve.”

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