By Barbara Campbell
Second chances – We all need them at some point in our lives. Luckily, for most of us, we get opportunities to right wrongs and move forward. Unfortunately for many who find themselves serving time in one of our prisons or jails, getting that second chance can be very difficult and feel like climbing out of a never-ending hole.
Helping people overcome difficult circumstances, is one of the things The Dalton Foundation is passionate about. That is why supporting the work of reentry ministries is one of its main focus areas. The foundation believes that for a person to truly leave their past behind and make a fresh start, they need a good, fulfilling job.
While finding a job is an essential component to successful reentry, finding these jobs after incarceration is never easy; the unemployment rate for those who have returned home from prison is 70%. That is why The Dalton Foundation in partnership with reLink Medical, True Freedom Ministries, and The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has launched the WorkForce Development Collaborative.
In this program, minimum security inmates from the Grafton Reintegration Center, who are 6 months or less from their scheduled release dates, are carefully screened through a rigorous interview process for placement in an externship at the reLink Medical warehouse. Successful candidates will have graduated from one of True Freedom’s intensive programs, completed a pre-release vocational training program, and will have been approved for community approved statuses by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC).
During the work week at reLink Medical, participants learn valuable and transferable computer and warehousing skills, gain real-world job experience that will bolster their resumes, and upon completion of the program will receive job evaluation and referrals, with the possibility of being hired full-time at reLink Medical. This program allows the participants to increase their employability and marketability, which is essential to reengaging the workforce after being sidelined for a substantial amount of time. Each partner plays a vital role in the success of this program, but if these three key pieces are in place, the impact potential is incredible.
Key Components of a Successful Program
Supportive Correctional Leadership Within the Prison System
Forward thinking leaders who want to see recidivism reduced are necessary to support and empower inmates as they leave. ODRC is a great partner by providing training and direction to the inmates and reLink Medical staff to help with compliance, safety and security.
Ministry and funding partners are needed to help with administrative and logistic activities and costs. In this case, True Freedom Ministries works extensively inside the prison system. They develop and identify eligible program participants, transport inmates to and from the worksite, and mentor and counsel inmates both in prison and on the worksite. The Dalton Foundation offers support by providing funding and thought leadership support to True Freedom Ministries (TFM) to allow these activities to take place.
“The only way to break the cycle of recidivism,” says Mike Swiger, executive director of True Freedom Ministries, “is to equip returning citizens to be self-sufficient. Our partnership with The Dalton Foundation is enabling us to empower ex-offenders to confidently reenter the workforce as productive members of society.”
Supportive Business Environment
A business is needed with a culture and leadership that is committed to the importance of second chance employment. The business must have the workplace consistency to develop this sector of the workforce, and adequate amounts of appropriate work for participants to train and learn. reLink Medical has all of the components and is not only rewarded by knowing they are supporting the community, but also in profitability. It truly is a win for everyone.
“The productivity that I gained through the implementation of the ODRC/TFM intern program was simply incredible. But the real win for reLink Medical was the culture that was created for the entire business through the ODRC Interns willingness to learn, eagerness to help and gratefulness for the opportunity to be on site,” said Jeremy Dalton, vice president of inventory management and logistics, reLink Medical
Ray Dalton, founder and chairman reLink Medical and The Dalton Foundation, is very passionate about this program and excited about the impact seen in the first few months since implementation.
“These men are performing very important roles for the company and their work is preparing them for successful launch into the community. We’re all about giving a hand up, not a handout,” Dalton said. “The interns are extremely grateful for the opportunity and have proven to be some of the most diligent workers on the team. This holistic collaborative is delivering positive outcomes for the prison system, the inmate participants and the company. We’d love to take this model and approach, identify other key businesses and ministries to support and see this replicated throughout the state and nation.”
The Dalton Foundation also supports relink.org, which lists resources for the reentry community in all 88 Ohio counties. In a few clicks, those in need can find employment, housing, basic needs and addiction recovery services in their area.
If you would like to learn more about this collaborative, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.