Ex-offenders get help finding work - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Ex-offenders get help finding work

WATERLOO (KWWL)--- The economic recession has left millions without a job.  But finding new work is even tougher, for those with a criminal record.  Thursday, ex-offenders looking for work got some help.

Agencies ranging from workforce development to health care clinics and Social Security teamed up to reach out to convicted criminals.  The goal is to help these past prisoners get their lives back on track.

"I've been through a little bit of homelessness.  I caught a case, just an OWI charge a couple years ago.  I went to jail for a little bit and it's been hard finding a job," said Robin Briner-Lang.

Robin's got a lot in common with many other people in this room.  They've made some mistakes, and are now looking to turn things around by finding a job.

"I hope to find a position for me somewhere, forklift or anything.  It really doesn't matter right now.  I'm just looking for employment to take care of my kids," said Willy Avant.

But convincing employers to consider their skills and character above their criminal record, is no easy task.

"I can weld.  I'm a good laborer. It's just if somebody will give me the opportunity or not," said Anthony Wright.

To help them cross those hurdles, Anna Mae Weems helped organize this one-stop shop conference, providing resources on employment, educational opportunities, and even health care services.

"Your health has to be there. If your employer is going to expect you to arrive on time, to be fit, and to be able to do your job," said Jennifer Lightbody, director of the People's Health Clinic.

It's all part of the formula that just might help these ex-offenders find success and stay out of prison.

"I don't want to do this for the rest of my life.  I don't want to be in a spot where I'm seeking employment.  I want to be employed and stay employed," Wright said.

It's part of improving their self worth; proving to themselves, their families, and to society, that a prison record isn't the end-all, be-all.

"You know I graduated and got my GED.  I don't have my college degree yet, but I want to do that.  I want to own my own business," said Briner-Lang.

And now with the right resources in hand, these convicted criminals have a second chance at success.

The community corrections program also serves as a vital resource for those coming out of the prison system.  Supervision and treatment in the program are designed to help break the cycle of criminal behavior.  In fact, studies have shown that former offenders, who take an active role in community corrections and rehabilitation programs, are much less likely to commit crime again in the future.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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