Union Pacific Supports Minneapolis Nonprofit in Cultivating Compassion, Second Chances

Rochester Prison Community Ties | MR

Dwight Tostenson, chief executive officer and co-founder of TRP, teaches inmates at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota.

Nationwide, almost 70% of formerly incarcerated people return to prison within three years of release. The Redemption Project (TRP), a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, aims to upend this statistic by providing a second chance through education, mentorship and employment.

The nonprofit’s programming – funded in part by a $20,000 grant from Union Pacific’s Community Ties Giving Program – bridges a critical gap in career services among individuals with justice system involvement.

“Inmates typically lack important skills, support networks and opportunities to gain meaningful work after release from prison, which places them at a high risk of reoffending,” said Dwight Tostenson, chief executive officer and co-founder of TRP.

In addition to job placement support, reentry assistance and year-long mentorship, TRP provides a 14-week Virtues for Success class, where justice-involved individuals develop other important skills, such as the importance of developing self-control, wisdom, courage and dealing with others justly. Since 2018, over 130 people across Minnesota have graduated from the class, which served 61 new students in 2023.

By providing local impact to strengthen communities and build diversity, Union Pacific’s Community Ties Giving Program aims to address the interests of underrepresented or underserved populations in the communities the railroad serves.

In the Twin Cities, unemployment, mass incarceration and recidivism disproportionately impact people of color, impeding meaningful employment opportunities, according to Tostenson.

“By helping employers and employees across all levels see the benefits of hiring former inmates, regardless of race, we hope to inspire more discussion around culture, policies and practices that increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” Tostenson said.

The program facilitates collaboration with employers, government leaders, inmates and prison officials to address the broken systems and knowledge gaps that prevent successful second chance hiring.

In 2023, TRP expanded its programming to three additional state and federal prisons in Minnesota and relaunched its cohorts at Federal Medical Center Rochester and Stillwater State Prison. The nonprofit aims to see 5,000 graduates employed by 2030.

Knowing that great careers dramatically increase the likelihood of successful reentry, Union Pacific expanded its own Second Chance Hiring Program to multiple locations, including Minnesota, in 2022.

“One of our company’s key stakeholders is the communities in which we live and work,” said Tonya Eggspuehler, assistant vice president-Human Resources. “By leading the way with second chance hiring, we are giving back to the communities through employment opportunities and providing a different path.”

Union Pacific is proud to support Minnesota organizations through its Community Ties Giving Program. In 2022 and 2023, the railroad provided a combined $245,000 to Minnesota groups, such as Urban Roots, the Minnesota Zoo Foundation and the PFund Foundation.

In 2023, Union Pacific’s Community Ties Giving Program proudly awarded nearly $5.1 million in local grants, benefiting 543 nonprofit organizations across its 23-state system. The small- and medium-sized grants support initiatives centered around the railroad’s key areas of giving: safety, workforce development, community spaces and environmental sustainability.

The application process opens annually in April, and is competitive, ensuring a fair opportunity for all eligible entities. To read more details about Union Pacific’s Community Ties Giving Program or apply for a grant, visit up.com/CommunityTies.

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