Magazine article Corrections Today

The Indiana Department of Correction and Department of Workforce Development Team Up to Help Ex-Offenders and Indiana Businesses

Magazine article Corrections Today

The Indiana Department of Correction and Department of Workforce Development Team Up to Help Ex-Offenders and Indiana Businesses

Article excerpt

More than 20,000 offenders are released from Indiana prisons each year. Of the 20,000 released, 35.8 percent return to prison after three years. The recidivism rate increases to 60 percent lithe ex-offenders remain unemployed. The approximate cost to house an inmate is $20,000 per year, and the average time served in Indiana prisons is 7.8 years. The Hoosier Initiative for Re-Entry (HIRE) program started in April 2012 and is a collaboration between Indiana's Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) and businesses in the state to educate and train incarcerated individuals to begin employment upon release. Since the beginning of the program until September 2014, more than 2,700 Indiana ex-offenders were placed through the HIRE program, with a retention rate of 81 percent and an average wage of $9.42 per hour. The positive effect of HIRE on Indiana's economy is estimated to be more than $8 million.

HIRE is an important part of the reentry efforts underway in Indiana. DWD has created regions across the state for trained staff to work exclusively with people who have had past convictions in job preparedness, training, skill set awareness, job search and placement. DWD staff overseeing the HIRE program are required to be certified offender workforce development specialists (OWDS) to hold these positions. The Prison Enterprises Network (PEN), Indiana's correctional industries, conducts OWDS training twice per year under the facilitation of Reentry and Operations Manager Doug Evans. The three-week OWDS training is through a partnership with the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). "I am proud of the work PEN has done throughout IDOC and the state of Indiana, training the workforce specialists, preparing staff to assist ex-offenders and collaborating with other agencies. This is what it takes to prepare offenders for a successful return to the community," stated IDOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon.

The HIRE program serves more than 2,500 clients annually. In addition, DWD set a goal to have at least one certified OWDS in each of its 90 WorkOne employment offices throughout the state. The program also works directly with local businesses, nonprofit agencies and local community officials to make sure the focus is on successful reintegration for every person that comes out of incarceration. HIRE coordinators contact employers to determine job availability and appropriate job matching, and they also advise employers of available benefits such as tax credits, bonding and lower turnover rates. In turn, HIRE coordinators meet with offenders prior to release as well as parole and probation clientele, preparing them to be job-ready.

"I am very pleased by the early success and tangible taxpayer savings Indiana has experienced with the HIRE program," said Dennis A. …

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