We Americans love a redemption story… theoretically. We argue on chat boards for the right of athletes and actors to resume their multimillion dollar careers once they’ve “paid their debt to society.” Yet for those who didn’t win the genetics lottery we simply complain about recidivism, our own safety and then we build more prisons. Or we loudly proclaim they don’t really want an honest job, or we cry NIMBY. Whatever the reasons used we’re all paying a heavy price (seriously, look up the price here), in some ways you could never have imagined. Fortunately, there seems to be some rather surprising and promising movement on this front.
One Church One Offenders of LA, Inc., an organization in north Louisiana that provides services for ex-cons, hosted a job fair recently that was attended by more than 250 people applying for jobs offered by 20 vendors. (Read the article in the Shreveport Times.)
In Houston at the Road to Re-entry Employment Fair, more than 3,000 formed a line that spanned several blocks, tied up traffic and astonished organizers who had only a heartbreaking 35-40 available positions. (Watch the video below.) Organizers have already started planning another larger fair hoping to bring more opportunity to these people who have much more to lose than available prospects.
The turnout at these fairs show there’s a desire to do better and be better. If we only we could expand upon these events…. there needs to be more opportunity. These fairs are being helped by the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit program which gives tax credits to businesses that hire those with criminal records. It makes more sense to offer these credits than to spend tax dollars on imprisoning people for what might be no more than a lack of opportunity.
As Regina Brett wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Imagine what taxpayers could save if we closed prisons due to ‘under-crowding.’”