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Minnesota Employers Contribute to Community Safety by Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

Formerly incarcerated people among “best trained” employees some Minnesota companies have found

 

October 4, 2022



Lino Lakes, Minn. – Minnesota companies seeking to fill open positions should look to the highly-qualified individuals being released from Minnesota state prisons, according to participants at a panel discussion that took place Friday, September 30 at Minnesota Correctional Facility – Lino Lakes. Data and research over several decades confirm that when people find stable, meaningful employment upon release from prison they are less likely to reoffend and return to prison. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Department of Corrections (DOC) also announced Friday a new DEED grant program to help reintegrate justice-involved Minnesotans into the workforce.

“If we truly want safer communities, people coming out of prison must have what they need to live, become and stay employed, and be able to support themselves and their families,” Minnesota DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said. “Over 95% of those who are in prison today will return to their families and communities. This is a strategy to help ensure a successful transition to prevent future crime. That’s why we prioritize getting incarcerated men and women the skills, training, and education they need to be ready to work on the day they leave prison.”

“Minnesota’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation and Minnesota companies are looking for qualified workers to fill open positions in a variety of fields,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “Many Minnesota companies have realized that people transitioning back into the community after serving their time are often well-trained and highly skilled. Companies with positions to fill have a real opportunity to help improve community safety in Minnesota while also filling a need they have in their company.”

This week, DEED will release a Request for Proposals for its new Pilot Re-Entry Competitive Grant Program. Authorized by the Legislature and approved by the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership Board (MJSP), $3,000,000 is available in Fiscal Years 2023-2024 to help reintegrate justice-involved Minnesotans into the workforce. Potential grantee organizations – including state and local government units, nonprofits, community organizations, and business or labor organizations – may request up to $500,000.

To help people who were previously incarcerated successfully transition back into their communities and stable employment, approximately 2,300 incarcerated adults attend educational classes in Minnesota prisons each day. Approximately 600 students graduate from career and technical education classes each year. The Minnesota DOC offers 14 full curriculum Career and Technical classes and three certification programs.

Commissioners Grove and Schnell on Friday received a tour and briefing on the DOC’s C-Tech training program that gives students hands-on training and an opportunity to earn industry-recognized certifications in a variety of telecommunications, copper cabling, and fiber optic technology. C-Tech programs are addressing the current Skilled Labor Gap in IT and other technology fields by training the workforce of tomorrow. Students completing the C-Tech program while incarcerated have been successfully hired by several Minnesota companies.

“The students we have hired who are transitioning back to the community are some of the best-trained new employees we have,” Maxi Tumusiime, senior recruiter for Greenheck Group, said. “They have great knowledge, are highly-skilled, and are ready to work from the first day they start working for us.”

The Minnesota DOC also offers a range of transitional programming to incarcerated people during confinement and after release. Agency staff work to connect people to these resources and services, organized through the DOC Reentry Services Unit in collaboration with facility services, field services, various state and county agencies, faith-based groups, community organizations and private citizens. The combined effort meets their complex needs as they begin the transition from prison back into community. Ensuring that transition is successful is key to preventing reoffending and making our communities safer.

In addition to DOC and DEED staff, two individuals who were previously incarcerated but now run their own businesses joined the discussion. Crystal Hill-Hover and Fredrick McGee both shared their experiences and journeys.

“I was told in boot camp to use my intelligence and street smarts to do something good for the world and that stuck with me,” Hill-Hover said. “That’s what we need. We need more open-minded people who will give second chances.”

“I put in for 22 jobs and got hired at all of them until the second interview because of my record,” McGee said. “Don’t judge a book by its cover. A lot of people didn’t think I would make it due to my background.”

In the last legislative session, a DOC proposal to create and support new pathways from prison to employment stalled in the Minnesota Senate, despite bipartisan support. The proposal would build and expand connections to public and private employers, the trades, and community colleges and other post-secondary institutions and connect incarcerated individuals with employment upon release.

DEED is the state's principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more information about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website or follow DEED on Twitter. You can see resources to help Minnesotans prepare for and find employment now, including thousands of open positions throughout Minnesota, at CareerForceMN.com.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections mission is to transform lives for a safer Minnesota by using a person-centered approach to supporting individuals on the transformation journey. With a focus on public safety, including the well-being of people committed to its custody and its staff, the Minnesota DOC prioritizes strategies that hold people accountable for the offenses they commit while giving them the tools they need to succeed as they transition back to Minnesota communities. For more information about the Minnesota DOC, visit the DOC website or follow DOC on Twitter.

 

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