Job fair gives offenders a second chance at life - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Job fair gives offenders a second chance at life

Posted: Updated:
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

The Georgia Department of Corrections, along  with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, hosted an Offender Job Fair Wednesday, April 16, to help felons who are looking for a second chance.

Isabella Walker, a re-entry counselor with the Columbus Probation Office, put together this first ever offender job fair in hopes of providing new opportunities for men and women who needed them.

"We have approximately 3,200 probationers in Columbus," Walker explained. "This is a major concern, because many probationers will get out but fail to find employment. Sometimes when offenders can't find new jobs, they may end up going back to do the same things they did before they were placed on probation."

Nine local companies were represented at the event, and about 120 offenders attended.

"We tell employers that although some of these people may have a little blemish on their background, they are willing to work hard," Walker said. "They just need a second chance. I believe the probationers who are serious about working will do a tremendous job."

Rodney Council was one of the felons who attended the job fair. He said he was charged with aggravated assault in 2011, and he was in prison for 2 years. He has been out of prison for about two weeks now.

"The biggest worry was the job search," Council said. "It will continue to be a big concern until I find one. I have to support my family now."

Council said he has seven kids, and a wife he has to look after.

"I've heard of many cases where offenders weren't able to find jobs," Council said. "We already know that the job market is hard even if you don't have a criminal record. So it's harder for the offenders to find out. It's like putting handicap on you. But I feel like if you give us a chance, we will try our best. I feel like we paid our debt so I think we should be able to move back into the society by finding jobs."

Meeko Menefee with New Life Second Chance Outreach came to the fair to hire and help some felons.

"We first opened in April 1, 2014," Menefee said. "We've been open for just few weeks now, but we have been able to help people find jobs with us or somewhere else," Menefee said. "When we are looking to hire felons, we look at how dedicated they are, their skill sets and how long they have been out of trouble for. We know everyone deserves a second chance."

Menefee said many companies can get tax credits for hiring felons.

"There are various benefits that come with hiring offenders," Menefee said. "Also, people change. Someone who just got of prison, versus someone who has been out of more than ten years, can struggle finding jobs and other things. We have to open up our minds to help those who are serious about changing their ways. Many who are here today are looking for another chance at life."

Walker said she will make this job fair into an annual event.

"We will have more employers, and encourage more offenders to attend," Walker said.

"I received great help from this event," Council said. "I learned how to write resumes, interview skills and more. We all make mistakes, and some may not be proud of their criminal records. But some of us are serious about getting our lives together for our families. I hope many employers can look beyond our background and give us another chance."

Copyright 2014 WTVM. All rights reserved.