Michigan Incarcerated Veterans’ In-Reach Program receives national award of excellence

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) has been awarded the Pinnacle Award for Workforce Development from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies for the Michigan Incarcerated Veterans’ In-Reach Program (MIVIP). Since the program’s inception in December 2022, 211 veterans have been served and 184 enrolled in the MIVIP workshops. Of those 211 veteran participants, 66 have been paroled with a 1% recidivism rate.

One such veteran supported through MIVIP is Detroit resident and former U.S. Marine Lavelle Searcy. While incarcerated, Searcy attended the MIVIP workshops where he received pre-release employment services.

Upon release, Searcy contacted his local Michigan Works! Service Center which introduced him to LEO’s Veterans’ Employment Services (VES). He received support with creating his resume, applying for job opportunities, and polishing his interview skills. He quickly obtained employment through the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) as a bus driver. Today, he is still employed as a bus driver and can afford his own apartment.

“I have successful employment, great housing, a vehicle, a bank account, and things that normal people in society have because of the help I received from VES and MIVIP,” Searcy said. “LEO worked with me every step of the way, from helping me create my resume and find job interviews to helping me find furniture for my apartment. I want to thank Veterans’ Employment Services and Veterans’ Career Advisor Jennifer Georgievski for going that extra 100 miles to help me and most assuredly countless others.”

Led by LEO’s Veterans’ Employ­ment Services team, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Michigan Works! network, MIVIP provides pre-release education, employment assistance and career guidance to incarcerated veterans at correctional facilities in Carson City, Jackson, Muskegon, Washtenaw County, Saginaw and St. Louis as well as one jail in Kent County.

“Our Michigan Incarcerated Veterans’ In-Reach Program goes beyond providing employment and wrap-around services – it helps our former military members leverage their training, skills and leadership abilities to gain meaningful, self-sustaining employment,” said LEO Director Susan Corbin. “We're helping veterans understand how their military experiences can bring value to the civilian workplace while removing significant barriers to employment for justice-involved veterans, creating an often-overlooked talent pipeline with the skilled workers needed to help Michigan businesses succeed in our global economy.”

MIVIP was designed to complement the established programs of each correctional facility which include adult education, violence prevention, substance abuse treatment and counseling to address underlying mental health issues. The program builds on those services to provide intensive employment-readiness training. Veterans also receive post-release wrap-around services to help ensure each participant’s success and reduce recidivism.

“The Michigan Incarcerated Veterans’ In-reach Program is a wonderful innovation which helps provide the necessary resources and education for workforce reentry,” NASWA President and CEO Scott B. Sanders said. “This program is providing incarcerated veterans with necessary support and appreciation for their service to our country.”

LEO was awarded the prestigious Pinnacle Award for Workforce Development at NASWA’s 2024 Winter Policy Forum in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Feb. 15.

To learn more about the Michigan Incarcerated Veterans’ In-Reach Program, visit Michigan. gov/LEO.