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New program for former inmates who were veterans
 
Published Friday, January 11, 2019
by Maria Magher, Correspondent

Military veterans face many challenges when returning to civilian life, including finding sustaining and fulfilling work and housing, and adapting to family life. Inmates who have recently been released from prison face many of the same challenges.

A new program from the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs aims to help inmates who are also veterans by providing them opportunities to become entrepreneurs and to create a successful and rewarding future. The program, Incarcerated Veterans 2 Entrepreneurship, or IV2E, launched last month, and provides education and training to help former inmates who were veterans to start their own business.

“The idea of the IV2E pilot program stemmed from Governor’s Roy Cooper’s State Reentry Council Collaborative (SRCC),” which aims to assist formerly incarcerated individuals transitioning from prisons with resources and support to help them become productive members in their communities, said Larry Hall, the secretary of the N.C. DMVA. “The N.C. DMVA embodies the slogan ‘Veterans and the military are a part of the community, not apart from the community.’ This is regardless of their circumstance or disability. Because vets have answered the call and sacrificed for our country, we now stand ready to answer the call to serve them.”

The two-day pilot program launched on Dec. 3, and included six current and former inmates. The program consisted of education, training, mentorship and the sharing of resources.

It featured sessions on start-up resources available in the state, the fundamentals of writing a business plan and exploring the feasibility of business ideas, appropriate business dress, how to decode nonverbal communication like body language, and business loans and financing. Different groups also shared resources available for the veterans, such as mentorship, skills training and job placement, and legal help for expunging their criminal records.

Partners working with the N.C. DMVA on the program were the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Straight Talk Support Group, Eckerd Connects’ Workforce Development, Mustardseed Veteran Funding, Select Bank, Dress for Success of the Triangle, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and the N.C. Justice Center.

Those who finished also received one-on-one career coaching skills and a business suit.

“Overall, the IV2E pilot program was a success,” said Ariel Aponte, the inter-agency program coordinator at the N.C. DMVA who developed the program under Hall’s guidance. “The two-day pilot program inspired previously incarcerated veterans to take the challenge and journey for their entrepreneurial goals.”

Aponte said the agency hopes to expand the program to twice a year, and it will be open to any current or former inmate who are also veterans. The program is advertised on social media and other platforms, and agencies will work to identify inmates who might benefit.

Aponte said the agency will also try to offer the program in prisons for inmates who are set to be released within six months.

According to data from the Department of Justice, veterans account for 9 percent of the general population, 8 percent of state and federal prisoners, and 7 percent of jail inmates.

“The department continues to develop new initiatives focused on reentry opportunities, placing emphasis on education, workforce and entrepreneurship,” Aponte said. “Leadership within the DMVA believes that having these three items at the core will ensure that North Carolina veterans are provided the highest level of service, resources and opportunities, keeping with the principles and values of this state and nation.”

Other re-entry resources are available for veterans who have been incarcerated, including health care programs, veterans’ courts, justice outreach and case management for criminal offenses, and business outreach centers that offer training and access to resources.

“They are an invaluable asset in our state, and we need to ensure that even those who are incarcerated are provided every opportunity to address the challenges they face and become the productive citizens that they were destined to be,” Hall said.

 

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