The BreakFree Education Fellowship

The BreakFree Education Fellowship provides formerly incarcerated individuals, all of whom were charged for crimes committed during their teens or early 20's, the chance to earn a living wage, learn critical technology and workplace competencies, and develop the skills they need to become productive, community-minded and self-sustaining residents in the DC area.

The Fellowship matches returning citizens, all of whom have been released under D.C.'s Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act, with local and national nonprofits for an 18-month, immersive, paid, on-the-job training program. The first cohort will start in September 2021.

Use the buttons below to learn more about the Fellowship based on your role.

If you have questions or would like additional information about the BreakFree Education Fellowship,
email Roy Middleton at rmiddleton@breakfree-ed.org or David Domenici at ddomenici@breakfree-ed.org


 

Information For Prospective Host Sites

Benefits for Participating Host Organizations
The Fellowship affords Host Organizations the chance to repair the harm of over-incarceration, of excessive sentencing, and disproportionate criminalization of Black (predominantly) male teens. Host Organizations have the opportunity to address ongoing economic and financial strains that often overwhelm individuals returning from incarceration, by offering them well-paying, skills-enhancing employment. Host Organizations will benefit from participating in the Fellowship by: 

  • Improving their capacity and long term impact

  • Adding more diversity and different viewpoints to their organization

  • Becoming better at what they do

  • Modeling expectations for other organizations

 

Expectations of a Host Organization

We are looking for 4 to 6 nonprofit organizations committed to hiring a Fellow in the DC area to join as Host Organizations in the BreakFree Fellowship Program. Each Host Organization commits to:

  • Paying the Fellow a living wage along with standard company benefits for an 18-month Fellowship period

  • Providing the Fellow with intentional, personalized training in a suite of key workplace technology skills, along with other organization- and industry-specific skills

  • Working with their Fellow to create a pathway toward permanent, long-term employment with the Host Organization or elsewhere

  • Providing meaningful opportunities for their Fellow to take additional coursework or enroll in industry standard job training programs while employed

 

Structure/Timeline of Fellowship
The Fellowship lasts 18 months and is organized around 3 phases, each with specific goals. The structure is outlined below: 

  • Phase 1: Intensive Orientation led by BreakFree Education (1 month)

    • Four-week immersive training to to ensure Fellows have an understanding of the basic technology tools needed to use on the job

  • Phase 2: Apprenticeship and Immersion (11 months)

    • Host Organizations ensure that the Fellows learn and are exposed to a range of opportunities within the organization, and commit to intensive technology and communications training, designed to ensure Fellows are fully functional with technology and communication skills that are essential in today’s workplace.

    • Ongoing, competency-based training with BreakFree

  • Phase 3: Mastery and Long-term Employment Prep (6 months)

    • Specialization and expertise building

    • Host Organizations and Fellows plan for long-term employment

  • Completion: Full-time, Permanent Employment with Host Organization or other organization

 

Training and Support Offered To Fellows By BreakFree 
Fellows will receive training in a variety of technology and workplace competency skills from BreakFree. BreakFree will provide this training in Phase 1 of the Fellowship to prepare the Fellow with a set of skills that enables a more effective transition into the Host Organization. BreakFree will provide ongoing technology and workplace training throughout the Fellowship, both through scheduled weekly training for all Fellows, and on demand individualized support for Fellows and Host Organizations needing specialized, timely technology training. The skills-training BreakFree will provide includes:

  • Technology and office productivity skills

  • Communications and Interpersonal skills

  • Other site specific skills, based on Host Organization and Fellow needs

 

Fellow Selection
Eligible returning citizens apply to participate in the Fellowship. Through a selection process that includes an application, performance tasks and multiple interviews, BreakFree Education and a Fellow hiring team will select a cohort of Fellows equal to the number of Host Organizations. Representatives from Host Organizations will interview and meet Fellows during the month-long training phase of the Fellowship. BreakFree will then match Host Organizations and Fellows, taking into account both Host Organization and Fellow preferences.

 

Next Steps
We anticipate a busy summer preparing for the first cohort of BreakFree Fellows to start in September, 2021. Below is our preliminary timeline:

Application window for Host Organizations: June 14th thru August 6th

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Information For Prospective Fellows

Overview and Program Summary: 
BreakFree Education is offering a Fellowship program to individuals who were released pursuant to the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA) of Washington, D.C. The purpose of the Fellowship is to create a pathway to career advancement and financial stability. The Fellowship affords eligible participants the chance to earn a living wage, learn critical technology and workplace competencies, and develop the skills they need to become productive, community-minded and self-sustaining residents. Additionally, applicants who join the Fellowship will become part of a core group of dedicated individuals who share a common passion, learn together, share resources, innovate, problem solve, and effect real change.

Job specifics: Where will I work and how long is the Fellowship? How much will I get paid?

  • Where will I work? Fellows will work for a Host Organization located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. These local companies all pledged to hire IRAA grantees who are recipients of the Fellowship. Most Host Organizations are focused on education and juvenile and criminal justice reform. The work will be centered around learning critical technology and communication skills. All of these jobs will be accessible by public transportation. Some examples of potential employment sites are:

    • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

    • Sentencing Project

    • The Justice Policy Institute

    • National Legal Aid and Defender Association

  • How long is the Fellowship? The Fellowship lasts for 18 months, with the last 6 months intensely devoted to supporting the Fellow’s transition into permanent employment. Once a Fellow secures permanent employment, they then join the BreakFree Education Fellowship Alumni. As an Alumnus, former Fellows continue to receive meaningful support and are connected with programs to assist with long term needs.

  • How much will I earn? All Fellows will be paid by their Host Organization. BreakFree does not set the salary level for Host Organizations. We anticipate annual salaries will be in the $35,000 to $50,000 range. All Host Organizations have agreed to pay Fellows a living wage that enables them to be self-sufficient and earn significantly more than minimum wage. 

What skills will I learn?

  • Technology office workplace skills: Google Applications and Digital Workplace skills, Microsoft Office/Suite skills, email, video conferencing

  • Communications skills: social media, writing

  • Interpersonal skills: Collaboration and cooperation, team-building, time management, and proactivity

  • Other: Other site specific skills will vary based on the nonprofit organization you work with

 

Is this right for me?
Are you interested in education and juvenile and criminal justice reform? BreakFree Education believes there is a significant need in the social justice field for individuals who have personally experienced and overcome the challenges of being incarcerated from their teenage years through adulthood. BreakFree Education Fellows will draw from their unique experience, contributing ideas and solutions in these fields. 

This experience is right for you if you have a heart and passion for education, juvenile justice, and criminal justice reform. If you desire to improve your marketable skills significantly, in order to compete in today’s workforce, this is right for you. If you want to work in a professional environment that includes standard office practices like attending meetings, problem solving, working on teams, and writing, then it is right for you. If the opportunity to earn a living wage while you are learning these skills feels like it may be your best option, then this is right for you.

What sort of support will I get to help me be successful at work? 
Fellows will receive support from their Host Organization in the form of daily check-ins that are structured so you get support and training while you work on developing your skills. Fellows will also receive training that is specific to your job and the Host Organization’s needs. 

BreakFree Education will provide ongoing technology training support, as well. This will include structured weekly training designed to ensure you achieve proficiency in a range of technology and office productivity tools. Fellows will also have access to on-demand, as needed technology training to help them and their Host Organizations with specific technology-related needs. In addition, BreakFree will host monthly gatherings designed to support fellowship and offer opportunities for Fellows to share together.

Although BreakFree Education does not have a designated case manager to support the Fellows, we will work closely with other organizations in the cIty to support the Fellows with challenges that may arise and impact work performance. Those include:

  • Transportation challenges

  • Connecting with community organizations

  • Housing (BreakFree Education does not provide housing, but can help troubleshoot and help you connect with housing providers)

  • Short and long term planning

Details, details, details: 

  • Location - Where will my job be? Your job will be in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. 

  • How do I get to work? Your place of employment will be in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and should be accessible by public transportation.

  • Am I responsible for getting myself to and from work? Getting to work is your sole responsibility. If you are facing challenges getting to and from work, then you should contact your Host Organization who will have a point person designated to help you with these sort of adjustments.

  • Will I need a uniform or other specific attire? Your employer should have a policy that clarifies what the appropriate workplace attire is for your worksite. If there is an issue concerning your workplace attire, you should discuss this with your support person at BreakFree Education.


Selection Process: 
The BreakFree Education Fellowship requires applicants to undergo a three step process. 

  • First, IRAA grantees apply for the BreakFree Education Fellowship. Applications are completed online. The application includes a number of short answer questions.

  • Second, IRAA grantees who are selected to move to the Second Round of the selection process will have one or more in person interviews and will complete a series of performance tasks. This second round of the application process is designed to see if applicants are likely good fits with our Host Organizations and the Fellowship. 

  • Third, BreakFree will select a limited number of Fellows who will be members of our inaugural BreakFree Education Fellowship. 

 

When does the BreakFree Education Fellowship Start?
The Fellowship is slated to start on Monday, September 13, 2021. 

  • The first month of the Fellowship is an intensive pre-placement training program that will focus on technology training and workplace competencies. 

  • Fellows will interview with one or more Host Organizations during this month-long training and will be matched with their Host Site during this time. 

  • Fellows first day ‘on the job’ with their Host Organizations will be Monday, October 11, 2021.

 

How do I Apply? And When Can I Apply? 
Our website will provide details on how to apply for the Fellowship shortly.

  • BreakFree Education will accept applications Monday, June 28th thru Friday, July 9th. 

  • Selected applicants will be invited to interview and complete performance tasks. 

  • BreakFree Education anticipates selecting Fellows on Friday, August 6th!

If you have trouble completing the application online, please reach out to Christina at ccampbell@breakfree-ed.org

Please Note:

All individuals must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by September 13th to be selected as a BreakFree IRAA Fellow.

More Information on IRAA Law

In DC--as in many jurisdictions around the country--teens convicted of certain crimes have been eligible to be tried and sentenced as adults. Starting in the 1980s, the number of teens charged as adults and sentenced to long sentences--including life without parole--expanded significantly, in large part due to a series of laws passed in light of concerns raised by a race and fear-mongering campaign predicting the rise of a ‘Black teen predator class.’ Hundreds of Black teens in DC were sentenced under this regime starting in the 1980s. In 2016 the DC Council passed the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA). This law, as amended in 2018, permits incarcerated individuals to petition the court for a sentencing review if they were convicted in adult court for an offense that occurred before their 18th birthday, and they have served at least 15 years in prison.  In 2021, this law was amended again to include individuals who were convicted when they were between 18 and 25 years old.

 

From July 2018 until the present, nearly seventy individuals have been granted relief under IRAA (a number of petitions have been denied by the courts, as well). As of May 2021, over 100 IRAA-eligible individuals remain incarcerated.