INDIANAPOLIS — Hiring Hoosiers is RTV6’s initiative working to find you jobs, opportunities, and resources.
Anyone who has ever filled out a job application knows that you’ll be asked if you have a criminal background, and for some, if that answer is “yes,” that could mean they won’t get the job.
The Department of Correction is looking to break down that barrier for offenders by helping inmates find employment before they’re even released from prison.
“I’ve been here approximately 3 and a half years so far,” says inmate Joy Miller.
She’ll be released from the Indiana Women’s Prison soon, and when that happens one of the first things she’ll do is look for a job.
“I’m very motivated, very self-sufficient, hard-worker,” Miller says.
She’s feeling even more driven after participating in the Department of Correction’s virtual job fair.
“The whole idea behind the virtual job fair is to give people an opportunity, that are getting close to serving their time and finishing it. A chance to have a meaningful way forward with employment so we have a group of employers that have stepped forward and said, ‘These people have paid their debt to society, and we want to give them an opportunity,’” explains Dave Bursten, the Chief Communication Officer for the Indiana Department of Correction.
During the most recent virtual job fair, offender sat through a webinar where participating employers, like WellPet in Mishawaka, showcased available job opportunities and answered questions about the groups’ impending job search.
“When you have to fill in that criminal background question, which is a bad stigma for us, I believe that a lot of us are very self-motivated now and have to rise above that,” says Miller, “We have a lot more opportunities than I believed than when we went into seeing this job fair and it gave me a lot more positive reinforcement.”
The sooner Miller, and other inmates elsewhere in the state are employed, the less likely they are to return to prison.
“Currently, when we talk about recidivism, I can tell you that in Indiana we have about a 33 percent recidivism rate,” says Bursten, “I will tell you in other parts of the country, it’s 50, 60, 70, 80 percent recidivism.”
The Department of Correction hopes the virtual job fairs not only change the mindset of employers but opens more doors for former offenders.
“Some people will have the mindset that a prison is a place to warehouse people away, to lock them up. More than 90 percent of inmates in Indiana correction facilities are going to finish serving their time, and they’re going to be coming back into society,” says Bursten, “We owe them everything to them and to society, to other Hoosiers, to make them as employable as possible so they have a successful life forward.”
The Department of Correction is always looking for employers who hire former offenders to participate in the virtual job fairs.