Program helps inmates find jobs


Getting back into society as an ex-offender can be stressful and overwhelming. Most of the time when a prisoner is released from prison they have no place to go and no route in life. So after a prisoner is released what is the next step?

The Mississippi Department of Corrections has established a re-entry program to help inmates find employment.

Re-entry Coordinator Matthew Riley along with other MDOC Re-entry/Pre-release employees have set out to visit all 82 counties in Mississippi and talk with employers about this program.

“It has been shown that employment is key to individuals successfully re-integrating into society when they are released from prison,” State Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall said in a press release earlier this week. “Therefore, helping offenders find a job is very important. Stable employment provides them a sense of worth, a feeling of accomplishment and self-reliability. They become taxpayers rather than tax burdens.”

“In our efforts, we are going county to county asking business owners from various companies, what would exclude an ex-offender from starting work for their company,” Riley said.

“Even though there are few companies that have a zero tolerance for ex-offenders there are companies in several counties where most employers agree on giving people a second opportunities based on what their charges were.”

Some employers before hiring an ex-offender will base their decisions on the severity of the crime and will do background checks as well.

In Forest, Wal-Mart store manager Boyd Jenkins said that his company has an open hire procedure, “as long as they pass the background check which is processed through our national background database then they can be hired,” Jenkins said.

He also said that for individuals that have a criminal history hiring would most certainly depend on the severity of their crime.

Penn’s restaurant manager Allen Lovett agreed. “Employment of a person with a criminal history would not be deterred, however, we would base our decision on what type of crime was committed,” Lovett said, adding that everybody deserves a second chance. “This is a hot, fast pace business. So, we are always looking for hard working people, especially those who are looking to better themselves.”

On the flip side of the coin, there are business owners that may be willing to give people a second chance, but also are concerned about things such as theft. “To protect companies, the federal bonding program is offered,” Riley said. “This program protects the employer from any loss of money or property or anything with monetary value.”

Within the 82-county tour Riley and his team are visiting companies such as hotels, restaurants, manufacturing, poultry processing plants, welding, heating and air conditioning, construction, electrical, retail, and the auto mechanic industry.

This re-integrating program is not only directed in a way to help innovate and fine tune the ex-offenders thinking skills, employability, readjustment and social skills into society but it also provides assistance in helping with referrals, interviews, and counseling.

Riley concluded, “Our goal is to secure long-term employment. We want to find out what skill set employers are looking for and match those offenders with those employers.”