Program offers HOPE for offenders

Dept. of Community Corrections holds employment seminar

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

Finding a job for a parolee can be a tough row to hoe. Recidivism rates increase for ex-offenders that do get a job. So project HOPE (Helping Offenders Prepare for Employment) rolled into West Memphis along with the Workforce mobile. Parole workers for the Arkansas Department of Community Corrections were on hand to guide local offender through the process. The goal was to better equip the those recently released from prison for employment. HOPE stemmed from a leadership seminar conducted by the department of corrections when Candace Cole Wallace and Dedra Coleman developed the program that came from a brainstorm at the seminar last summer. The day of HOPE started with participants developing a pocket resume and developing a personal job skills inventory. Next job hunters tried for the Arkansas career readiness certificate testing for reading math and information lactation skills. That readiness work links to more training and a proctored test at the Workforce Center based at ASU Mid-South. Finally corporate human resource professionals showed up to conduct mock interviews with the parolees and coached them up on interview skills. “It was part of our curriculum to come up with an action plan to come up with something practical for our offenders to use,” said Coleman. “We want our offenders to get jobs, but when you look at it they don’t have the skills or don’t know how to do a resume to get a job. I just thought about a jobs skill program and called it HOPE.” “We went through an overview of what to have on a resume,” said Markita Thompson, Area Nine Re-entry specialist. “We worked on how to present yourself in an interview in a positive way. It takes practice. Employment impacts recidivism greatly. Getting a job for a felon is not as hard as some would believe. There are plenty of companies dedicated to giving someone a second chance.” After this first ever stop, plans are to put Hope on wheels and take it all around the area including to Forrest City and Helena.

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