Ex-Cons Recommended for Hard-to-Fill Jobs; Reintegration into Workforce Seen as Collateral Benefit

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The federal government thinks it has found an underused resource for turning the job market around: Ex-cons.

Former prisoners work harder and are more productive than traditional employees, supporters say, and they are willing to take jobs no one else wants.

When someone serves time, they shouldn't face a lifetime sentence of unemployment, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said at a recent press conference, where she announced $20 million in grants to help young prisoners re-enter society and the workforce. There are clear economic advantages to reintegrating these people in our workforce.

Take Georgia, for example.

With the state's tough new illegal-immigration statute driving away many of the traditional farmworkers, Gov. Nathan Deal recently suggested that many of the state's 100,000 ex-prisoners now on probation could fill about 11,000 openings in the state's top industry.

There are a lot of positives that come from probationers being employed, said Brian Robinson, the governor's deputy chief of staff of communications. We are putting people who aren't able to find jobs into jobs that we actually need done. They're doing a job that is very important to our state.

In fact, in the state's Bacon County they are even using current prisoners to farm 18 acres of blueberries through a work-release program. The inmates enjoy getting out from behind bars, and they do it for free, so it saves the community money.

They do a good job for us, said Roger Boatright, chairman of the county commissioners. They get the job done, and we're very pleased with them.

In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell has also placed an emphasis on helping former prisoners re-enter society. America is a nation which believes in second chances, he said.

On a national level, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said this is a priority for the Obama administration. It has never been more important, he said at the Labor Department conference with Mrs. …