Guymon Daily Herald

Oklahoma employers partner with ODOC to offer returning citizens job opportunit­ies


OKLAHOMA CITY – “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” That sentence on a job or rental applicatio­n can be a stumbling block for thousands of returning citizens.

“Just talking to some of the guys and women, it’s very scary for them coming out,” ODOC Hope Ambassador Tammey Lane said. “They don’t know which way to go to be successful in the community.”

But there is hope. The Oklahoma Department of Correction­s and Central Oklahoma Workforce Innovation Board recently hosted the Fair Chance Hiring Event aimed at connecting those who are justice-involved with potential employers.

“For us, being a felon, it’s a major boost,” said returning citizen Troy Henning II. “Not a lot of people will give you that second chance. It’s a chance to return to society and live a real life. It gives you hope and a fighting chance.”

ODOC escorted dozens of incarcerat­ed men and women, nearing their release dates, to the Oklahoma City job fair.

“It gives you hope,” inmate Jeffery Thornburg said. “Just knowing people still care about you, even if you made bad decisions.”

Employers from dozens of industries engaged in one-on-one conversati­ons with candidates, reviewed resumes and conducted interviews. Advocates say it’s an underutili­zed workforce.

“As I like to say, the difference between me and a felon is I didn’t get caught,” stated employer Eric Rager. “People deserve a second chance and I really believe they will be the best employees because they want to work.”

Employment is one of the most important benchmarks of successful reentry. Recidivism rates drop considerab­ly and public safety is improved when second chances are extended.

“One person coming out of incarcerat­ion helping that one person isn’t just helping that person,” COWIB Business Services Manager Dana Campbell said. “It’s helping a family. It creates change down the line. And it also improves the community.”

These men and women are ready to return to the workforce. And they are grateful to the growing number of businesses eager to offer employment after prison.

The COWIB, Workforce Community Hope Center, ODOC, Goodwill Industries of Oklahoma, and other Workforce Developmen­t boards across Oklahoma collaborat­ed on the event.

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