Businesses hiring ex-offenders amid tight job market

By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — An organization is connecting Indiana businesses with ex-offenders in an effort to address a tight labor market and help people who are struggling to find work after leaving jail or prison.

Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry, usually known as PACE, is a non-profit that helps people return to society after spending time behind bars.

Develop Indy, the economic development branch of Indy Chamber, has linked 112 businesses to PACE since late 2017, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported .

Develop Indy officials noted that they view the ex-offender community as an untapped resource in a tight work market with a 4% unemployment rate.

“We’re really excited about the early results of this partnership and equally excited about the potential to scale this,” said Ian Nicolini, who supervises Develop Indy as vice president of Indianapolis economic development for Indy Chamber.

Rhiannon Edwards, executive director of PACE, said the not-for-profit has more partner employers than ever, which allows them to give time and “shoestring budget” to screening clients and trying to pair them with available jobs. In 2018, PACE helped around 4,400 clients on a $1 million budget.

“We are very, very picky about who we send” to employers, said Edwards. “If we send a whole bunch of bad candidates, it makes the whole re-entry community look bad. We don’t want to scare them away.”

Joe Williams, president of Wolfe and Swickard Machine in Indianapolis, said he has hired numerous people suggested by PACE.

PACE has currently placed about 120 ex-offenders in available jobs.

The U.S. unemployment rate for those who were previously imprisoned is around five times higher than the general population, a 2018 study from the Prison Police Institute said.

Develop Indy’s new strategy comes as community leaders aim to promote “inclusive growth.” Progress includes re-engaging marginalized groups, like those with a criminal history, as a solution to mounting inequality in the city.

“Our competitiveness as a regional economy, as a city, depends on increasing participation in the workforce,” said Nicolini. “We have a business case that says a more inclusive economy is a more competitive one.”




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