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State launches program to help employ ex-offenders

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The state is launching an initiative aimed at helping ex-offenders find jobs, particularly with large businesses that tend to have the most trepidation about hiring them.

Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development will partner with the state’s Department of Correction to identify those released from prison who would make promising job candidates, based on factors such as their record in prison.

A work force development employee then will work with regional Work One job-placement and training centers across the state to provide the candidates with job skills and consult with potential employers about hiring them.

The state’s Unemployment Insurance Board last week approved $600,000 to pay for the program for the last six months of the state’s 2012 fiscal year, which began July 1. The initiative would launch in January and eventually would cost an estimated $1 million annually to cover the salaries, supplies and travel expenses of 13 employees.

DWD Commissioner Mark Everson said the department aims to find jobs for 500 to 600 ex-offenders next year but eventually hopes to increase that number.

He came up with the idea for the program after talking to dozens of Indiana mayors and employers about the state of the work force. Among their concerns is being able to find willing employees to fill jobs quickly, particularly labor-intensive positions with difficult hours.

Everson said not all ex-convicts will be able to fill such jobs, but those who do qualify need help in connecting with employers, particularly the larger, more bureaucratic organizations that tend to be cautious about hiring them.

“You can’t convince me there isn’t some number of individuals leaving the prison system who are extremely motivated to lead a normal, productive life and need that chance,” Everson said. “You do time and you get a life sentence in the job market. We need to turn that around.”

Several not-for-profits across the state provide mentoring, job training and other services for ex-offenders. Everson said the goal is not to supplant those groups but find ways to partner with them in hopes of making their jobs easier.

More than 20,000 people are released each year from the Department of Correction, and 35 percent of them go back to prison within three years, according to state data. The recidivism rate, however, is at least 35 percent lower among those ex-offenders who are employed.

Workforce development’s ability to collaborate with the state prison system and its existing resources at the Work One centers make the agency a logical coordinator for the initiative, Everson said.

The ex-offenders will be selected for the program three months prior to their release and will start receiving some basic training in areas such as financial literacy and resume development before they leave prison.

Money for the program will come from penalties and interest payments paid by employers who are delinquent on unemployment insurance taxes. That fund had $4.4 million as of July 31.

Workforce development saw its share of federal funding reduced by 18 percent this year, and that has drastically sliced the state’s amount of discretionary funding. But Everson said the cuts have increased the need for the department to prioritize how it spends money, and this initiative will make a significant impact.
 
“This is something we think is a priority,” Everson said, “and we think it will make a difference.”
 

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  • Offenders not incarcerated
    I am the mother of a young man that has a heart of gold. He also has ADD and has been in troble since his teens. His emotional age does not correlate with his chronological age because of the ADD. Because of his past troubles that include a felony he is not able to keep a job. Every time he gets a temp job, thet leads to him being hired in for the company, they see his past record and he is out. No explaination nothing. He works hard, gives his all and is so close to making it, then it all falls through for him. He hasn't been in prison so the way I understand it, he wouldnt qualify?
  • Can Speak From Experience
    Writing from the perspective of a person that has just spent the last 20 years in prison I have to say that it is somewhat disheartening to read some of the comments posted by some of the writers on here. I went through every class I could while I was inside, graduated Culinary Arts, completed Barbering School, received an Electromechanical Engineering certificate from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, and even made it to work release only to be directed to jobs by the w.r. coordinator that I would be unable to keep because they only wanted people from the w.r. center to work due to the tax benefits. I am now working at McDonald's trying to move forward in finding a better job, one that will actually lead to a career. As somebody who has been there I think that the very few of us that actually use the time to better ourselves and turn our lives around we could benefit from a program like this and pray that I could get a hand up instead of a hand out. All I want is to be able to make something out of myself and be able to provide for my family at the same time.
  • I am an ex offender who can't find work, HELP
    What programs are available to me now? I can't get the free government phone, because I don't have a tax return. I can't get government assistance because of no past income. Without any of that I am helpless. I need help, please.
  • Employment and Ex-Offenders
    Initiatives such as these are extremely helpful. However, services should only be provided by professionals in the field of job development, career counseling and specifically, those certified as Offender Workforce Development.
  • We're in this together
    My heart goes out to anyone dealing with the stresses of unemployment. The very sound of the word shakes my humanity. Please remember that these programs are government funded. Programs are cut because funding (spending)is cut. Keep that in mind as you go to the voting booth this year and next, every politician you hear screaming for more cuts while good people like your father and others are suffering waiting for corporations to share the wealth and create more jobs as they receive more and more tax incentives (corporate welfare).
    • The least of these
      It is wonderful to see someone of significance paying attention to a segment of the community that is often neglected, disregarded, and often forgotten until the stress of survival is so much that they re-enter our mindsets as a breaking news story where they have committed another crime. Then come the out crys of, "Where is the humanity? How could they do something like this?" With the average rate of unemployment at 9% for the state, it is closer to 40% for this population. I feel the need to cry, "Where is the humanity? How could we not do something like this?
    • So...
      My dad should go commit a crime, ensure he gets caught, serve time and then he will receive aid in obtaining employment? He has continually kept up with the Dept. of Workforce Development and they keep cancelling programs for "regular/non ex-offenders" due to lack of funding...
      • Ex-Offenders
        How about the offenders who are recently released. It's hard for them if they didn't get any job skills while incarcerated. Just wondering.
      • Nancy
        It's about time! This will also help to address the homeless problem. The vast majority of all residents/visitors to homeless shelters are ex-offenders. If these men can't get work, what are they supposed to do? Most do the only things they know to do; go back to crime. Most employers will not give these guys a chance. I say help them once. They also have to help themselves and commit to changing their life.
      • Misdemeanors too?
        Does this apply to folks with misdemeanors as well, who have not spent time in prison? Can't even get a job at Meijers or Wal-mart with a minor consumption or public intox misdemeanor!!
      • Jobs would be if only
        There would be plenty of jobs for these people and more if we removed all illegals they have taken over all construction,lawn care, Janitorial and blue collar jobs forcing Americans out of work. And sending money to Mexico instead of paying the taxes as we do.
        Get real people!
      • We Are From Government To Help You
        How about a plan to train and hire anyone including ex-offenders based upon qualifications and merit?

        This money will be wasted on another government plan that tries to defy a saturated market of qualified unemployed people for too few job opportunities.

        It's all about priorities.

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