JACKSON – The Mississippi Department of Corrections is calling on businesses across the state to help inmates find employment once they are released from prison.
Statewide Re-entry Coordinator Matthew L. Riley, who started in the newly created position Sept. 1, plans to travel with other MDOC Re-entry/Pre-release employees to 82 counties to speak directly with potential employers. He has already visited a dozen counties since launching the "82 Counties in 82 Days" initiative on Jan. 22.
"It has been shown that employment is key to individuals successfully re-integrating into society when they are released from prison," Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said. "Therefore, helping offenders find a job is very important. Stable employment provides them a sense of worth, a feeling of accomplishment and self-reliability. They become taxpayers rather than tax burdens."
Most employers contacted thus far have been positive, Riley said. Some, however, have zero tolerance for hiring a person with a criminal record, and then there are some who are willing to work with the offender, based on the type of conviction and how old it is, Riley said.
The Federal Bonding Program is available to protect employers with reservations about hiring ex-offenders for fear that the persons would be dishonest, he said. The workforce service protects employers from loss of money or property.
"We are asking employers or businesses for their policy on hiring, if they have a job opening, if they hiring and what type of employees are they looking for," said Riley, whose 20 years of experience in both the public and private sector in corrections, education, and the judiciary has emboldened him against rejection.
MDOC is visiting a variety of businesses, including those in the hotel and restaurant industry, manufacturing, poultry processing, welding, heating and air conditioning, construction, electrical, retail, and the auto mechanic industry.