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Inmates from around the state participate in virtual job fair

August 31, 2018

IN Workforce Development WeekIndividuals incarcerated in Indiana prisons got the rare opportunity to search for employment before their release, by participating in an innovative virtual job fair with six Hoosier employers.

The Hoosier Initiative for Re-entry program, or HIRE, is a program administered by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that helps connect ex-offenders with job opportunities.

DWD partnered with the Indiana Department of Correction on Aug. 28 to host the virtual job fair, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

“It’s tough to get employers to hire folks while incarcerated, but we wanted to let our in-facility clients know Hoosier employers are willing to give them a second chance,” said Carrie Heck, DWD’s Re-employment Pathway director who oversees the HIRE program. “HIRE wants to be proactive in preparing individuals pre-release so it will be an easier transition into full time, benefitted positions, earning a livable wage once released.”

Six employers from around the state participated in the inaugural job fair, including representatives from another state agency, the Indiana Department of Transportation. Openings are available in areas such as warehousing, machining, landscaping and production.

A total of 132 inmates from Plainfield, Rockville, Wabash, Westville and the Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton took part in the job fair.

Up to 20,000 ex-offenders are released from prison each year in Indiana. Statistics show that those who remain unemployed for three years following release have a return rate of up to 60 percent.  The numbers go down dramatically for those who are able to secure employment and stay on the job.

The HIRE program helps reduce the recidivism rate by matching more than 2,500 ex-offenders annually with nearly 1,000 willing employers.