Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday announced two new programs aimed at boosting workforce participation by helping inmates transitioning out of prison to find meaningful employment.
According to the Department of Corrections (DOC), more than 13,100 individuals are released from prison annually after completing their sentence, and one of the most frequent barriers to successful re-entry in the United States is the lack of employment.
Beshear said the programs will help support the state economy, fuel the workforce and reduce the chances of someone returning to prison.
“My faith teaches me that there are second chances in this life and that we are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers,” Gov. Beshear said. “I am proud of the work we have done to grow a strong economy and achieve a historically low recidivism rate, and today we are doing even more to support job growth with a new Prison-to-Work Pipeline program and a virtual learning job skills program for inmates returning to society.”
The administration is partnering with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to launch the Prison-to-Work Pipeline at all 13 state prisons and 19 local jails that house state inmates. Businesses located throughout Kentucky’s 120 counties will virtually interview inmates with the goal of the inmate being offered a start date before returning to society. Inmates will receive resume writing assistance and job interview preparation prior to their interviews.
“Many individuals come to corrections broken, addicted or without vital resources to overcome the many barriers they have encountered along the path to incarceration,” said Kerry Harvey, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary. “And today, we take a step forward in breaking those cycles.”
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ashli Watts said their organization has long been an advocate for addressing the state’s low workforce rate.
“We see advancing career opportunities for individuals with justice-involved backgrounds as one step in this process. Not only are we able to connect individuals in need of employment with employers looking for candidates, but we are able to connect individuals in industries where they have prior experience and skills,” Watts said. “We are excited to see how this initiative allows employers to tap into a new workforce of people ready and willing to work.”
Job Readiness Simulation
The Governor announced that the administration is now offering a new virtual learning job skills program. Inmates will develop the resiliency, perseverance and confidence needed to overcome real-life obstacles and help them answer job interview questions.
“This is a very exciting project for our administration as it is the first of its kind in the department,” DOC Commissioner Cookie Crews said. “It presents an opportunity for our population to prepare for employment and be interview ready upon release from custody.”
The job readiness simulation was created by Marquis Software Development and SimCoach Games.
The program is offered to inmates at Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women and Luther Luckett Correctional Complex who are nearing the completion of their sentence. The administration plans to expand the program statewide in 2023.