Court officials are seeking the help of local businesses as they continue to plan a job fair for offenders.
Johnson County Court Services is planning to host a job fair on May 30 at Scott Hall at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Franklin to help probationers and community corrections participants find new job opportunities. Right now, officials are asking local businesses with open positions to take part, said Tony Povinelli, director of Johnson County Community Corrections.
For many offenders, getting a job after being released from prison is not easy. Court services often deal with offenders who don’t have access to identity documents that are standard for many job applications — ID cards, birth certificates, social security cards — and don’t have the means to get them easily.
“It’s not, ‘Oh, everybody’s hiring. There’s job shortages,’” Povinelli said. “There’s still barriers for people and somebody has to physically get them through these barriers.”
The barriers don’t stop there though. Many jobs require a resume and interview to take place, but some offenders have never done a resume or an interview, he said.
“There’s no way that a lot of our people have got those skills,” Povinelli said.
Court services has been increasing programming to help get offenders through the barriers. However, this issue stuck with Povinelli and lead to creating a job fair.
The job fair is about giving offenders who already have a job get a better one, while also helping those who have been struggling to find a job, he said.
The job fair is also designed to attract businesses that have been struggling to fill positions by showing them they can hire offenders. It will also allow them to get a better understanding of the barriers facing offenders, he said.
For offenders, any job is better than no job. However, court services’ goal is to help offenders be successful in life and have a job that is not only fulfilling but allows them to grow, Povinelli said.
But not every job offers that, and many of the offenders have skills and traits that they’ve learned along the way that could be underutilized at their current jobs, officials say.
“It’s not to downplay the importance of fast food restaurants or factory work, but in my mind, if you think about small businesses, local trades, local businesses, trade jobs, they have spots that need to be filled as well,” Povinelli said.
Povinelli hopes to show small businesses that while an offender may be labeled a felon, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to be a good worker. Being labeled a felon makes people not want to give them a chance, he said.
“By doing the job fair, it puts the offender in front of the people, in front of the employers to have the conversation to talk about the barriers and for the employer to get past discarding a resume because they didn’t know how to do a resume,” Povinelli said.
Bringing an offender and employer together allows them to build a personal connection, which is all that is needed to gain trust. Povinelli has experienced this firsthand from his days as a police officer when he spoke one-on-one with one of his informants, who was a drug addict.
“I’m spending more time with him, I’m talking with him,” Povinelli said. “Oh, this person is pretty smart. They should be doing more.”
Offenders are human too, and many times people don’t treat them as such. They deserve to be allowed to make a personal connection with an employer to show who they really are, Povinelli said.
The job fair will also allows court officials to explain what to expect when hiring an offender. They may have court appearances, counseling or drug screens, and employers should be prepared to be flexible and understanding about this, Povinelli said.
“It’s really difficult for us when an employer is like, ‘A field officer can’t come by here and check on anyone,’” said Angela Morris, director and chief probation officer of Johnson County Court Services. “But some are very open to it, and a lot of the factories and people in town love it when we stopped by to check on them.”
For offenders, a major part of recovery is letting their employers know they are in recovery. It’s one of the first things court services teaches offenders after they get out of prison, along with how important it is to be upfront and honest with their employer, Morris and Povinelli said.
“We don’t want liars. … We’re not going to try to help somebody get a job by starting that relationship off with lying,” Povinelli said. “That’s why we’re doing job fairs. It’s going to be open.”
Businesses interested in taking part in the job fair, or learning more information about it, should contact Povinelli at email@example.com.