CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A program designed to place former prison inmates across South Carolina in jobs once they are released from prison is working, state officials say.
At Gov. Nikki Haley's request, the S. C. Department of Corrections and the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce partnered to create the Work Ready Initiative to help the approximately 10,000 people released from state prisons each year find jobs.
The program began in November 2014 as a "One Stop Shop" for employment services within prison walls. An important part of the release process is preparing individuals to re-enter society and reduce the likelihood of reincarceration.
Of the offenders who have qualified for the program, 98 individuals have successfully completed the Work Ready Initiative and are currently employed, according to SCDEW. Another 466 offenders are currently enrolled, learning the skills necessary to find employment after they are released.
SCDEW provides one full-time employee, training and materials to assist qualified returning citizens in work-skills training.
In order to participate in the Work Ready program, inmates must meet specific requirements including a disciplinary-free record, non-violent offenses for incarceration, and a GED or high school diploma.
Ninety days prior to release, offenders are taught employment and soft skills in class for one hour each day. During the last 30 days, offenders work directly with a DEW counselor to become registered in the SC Works system, produce a resume, and apply for jobs online after they have been released. Local SC Works Centers are available to offer additional services to inmates who are no longer incarcerated.
The results of this and other work-ready programs are a lower recidivism rate – the rate in which individuals return to prison. The current rate for the entire population is under 25 percent. The rate for people involved in the pre-release program is 22.6 percent; in the work program 18 percent; and the prison industry program is 15.3 percent.
SCDC and DEW also are registering all ex-offenders in the SC Works system. Once they have an account, they can start the process of finding work by searching the job database, uploading their resumes and accessing other services provided to jobseekers.
"We appreciate Governor Haley's support of this program. Now, returning citizens are better equipped to lead productive lives. We are proud of the rehabilitative work taking place behind the wire and thankful for the businesses and organizations that help these individuals succeed once they return to the community," S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said.