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What stands in the way of meaningful employment?

The three things that prohibit employment for recently released individuals (education, opportunity, experience) and how to combat it.

Getting out of prison isn’t the end of an inmate’s journey – it’s the beginning. There are several obstacles to overcome before reintegration is possible and, with a criminal record, these hurdles can feel insurmountable. At HopeWorks, our team strives to provide services that equip previously incarcerated individuals with the tools necessary to combat these challenges. Here are three things that can stand in the way of achieving meaningful employment upon release.

1. Education
Most entry level positions require at least a high school level education. However, according to a U.S. Department of Justice’s special report on education and correctional populations, about 41 percent of inmates did not graduate high school or receive an equivalent degree. This educational disparity creates an employment gap that previously incarcerated individuals are poised to fill.

Our Adult Education Program allows those without a degree to return to the classroom and receive their high school equivalency diploma (HiSET), or commonly known as the GED. We also offer English as a Second Language courses for students of all nationalities. It is our hope that by providing these educational opportunities, we can work to break the cycle of recidivism in Shelby County and beyond.

2. Experience
A lack of education often means a lack of experience. A study conducted by the United States Sentencing Commission in 2016 found that 20-24 year olds had the highest arrest rate for federal offenders. During these years, young adults are often acquiring a variety of skills in the workforce, from computer skills to navigating
workplace conflict. We offer a 13-week, tuition-free program called Personal and Career Development Classes. Our PCD program provides students with more than 300 hours of classroom instruction, including counseling sessions, life skills
and parenting training, character and values development, and much more. This program gives students the experience necessary to thrive as they plan to enter the workforce upon release.

3. Opportunity
Not only do jobs have education and experience requirements, but places of employment often bar those with a criminal record from applying. Thanks to our partnerships with Workforce Investment Network, Hope 2 Hire and Tennessee College of Applied Technology, we are able to provide internship opportunities in fields that interest and suit each of our students’ skill sets and interests at businesses that align with our mission of providing hope and second chances. These employers lead the way in shifting the mindset that past wrongdoings prevent a person from being a strong, reliable employee.

If you have any questions about any of our programs or would like to know what you can do to help break the cycle of recidivism, give us a call at 901-272-3700.