HIRE program takes aim at Knox County

KNOX COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – The Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development spent the afternoon in Vincennes Friday talking with its Region 11 office on the implementation of its HIRE program. HIRE, which stands for Hoosier Initiative for Re-Entry, creates a joint effort between city and county governments, and the Indiana Department of Corrections. Its goal is to get Indiana’s prison inmates jobs after they’ve served their sentence.

According to the Department Of Workforce Development’s website, 20,000 inmates are released from Indiana prison each year. Scott Sanders, Commissioner of the DWD, explained how the program works.

“What it does is it takes individuals that are getting ready to be released from the state system from the department of corrections that are going to get sent back to the individual communities and helping them get ready for re-entry,” said Sanders.

As part of the HIRE program’s outreach, regional staffers court Indiana’s counties to explore industry needs, and where DOC inmates would best fit in. Sanders stated that Knox County’s industry driven economy is a prime candidate for the program, because of its growing economy.

“Well obviously 50% is in the manufacturing arena, production assistance, they may go work on the shop floor we also see a high percentage that go into hospitality,” said Sanders.

Sanders told News 10, ex-offenders are some of the most loyal staffers, because many just want a second chance. One continual challenge the inmates face, though, is finding an employer willing to hire a felon. The HIRE program offers, in some cases, ‘a bond’ to potential employers for theft and larceny, said Sanders. He also noted there’s a federal credit that employers can obtain, if they hire felons.

Sanders claimed it costs $2,000 a month to keep an inmate in a state prison; when released inmates have jobs, he said, they’re less likely to re-offend, and more likely put back into the state’s tax base, as opposed to take away from it.

“If you do the crime you do the time, but once you do the time, you should have that second chance opportunity,” said Sanders.

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