Houston Offers Second Chance Job Reentry For Ex-Offenders

Some 60,000 people are released from state and federal prison each year. The obstacles to successful reentry begin with the challenge of finding a job. Officials here in Houston helped launch a job training program for local ex-offenders.

The U.S. Dept of Labor awarded SER Jobs for Progress, a 1.2 million dollar grant to provide supports services and technical training to some 400 ex-offenders. They will learn the welding trade.

Houston was the only city in the area to recieve the DOL's Reintegration of Ex -Offenders grant. Houston congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee helped steer funding at a federal level.

"The frame was set by the Congress willing to first, sign on to legislation that I helped draft, the Second Chance Act, which lays the ground work for stopping recidivism in prisoners on the national level, and then the Department of Labor now under that legislation, can operate training programs that relate to incarcerated persons."

She says the program focuses on how families of offenders are affected, as they look for jobs and become contributing members of society.

"It is well known and documented that the children of incarcerated persons are more likely to go to prison than other children. When you intervene by giving that adult a lifeline and a job, it stops the idea of children believing there's no other pathway, but to go to prison."

Recruitment will be done through SER's existing partnerships with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Harris County Sheriff's Department and other agencies, to mentor and prepare ex-offenders with entry into the labor market.

Karlton Harris with the Sheriff's Department knows too well the challenges.

"It took me three months after I was released from prison, before I found my first job. But I kept seeking, I was determined to be a law abiding citizen and not result back to that same environment. And I tell people that it doesn't matter what community you go back to. If you're changed and you go back into that same community as a changed person, now instead of your environment changing you, you change your environment."

Welders are needed for the construction of buildings. Diane Schenke is with the Greater East Management District.

"The East End is certainly's experiencing a Renaissance. What we want to do is make sure that people who are living here currently are part of that Renaissance. And so many people particularly Hispanics, don't have that high school education that's really required for them to participate in the Renaissance. So we want them to get the kind of job training it will take, to be part of whether its green jobs or welding."

Through SER's first hand experience delivering workforce training programs in the community, it developed an extensive partnership base made up of educational, correctional and employer partners.

SER training
 

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...