Stop the Violence: Solutions for ex-offenders looking for employment

March 15, 2013 3:50:52 PM PDT
Ex-offenders looking to improve their lives are buzzing about a free job training program in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood.

Chicagoland Prison Outreach Ministries, a non-profit organization that runs the program, says having in-demand skills increases the likelihood of employment for ex-offenders.

It also decreases the likelihood of a repeat offense.

Participants of the program say it has motivated them.

"I just thought the program would be a better way for me to help my family, for me to be a better provider," said David Carapia, ex-offender.

Carapia and other ex-offenders must explain their criminal records to potential employers. But organizers hope that their training will help employers overlook their history.

"If they go to apply for a job, for example, as a wielder and someone else who doesn't have a felony conviction applies for the same job, their training will level the playing field and at least give them consideration for the job," said Dan Swets, founder of the Chicagoland Prison Outreach Ministries.

Terrance Shaw spent 5 1/2 years in prison and has been struggling to find employment since his release two years ago. He recently completed the wielding program and now believes he's narrowing in on a job.

"There aren't that many wielders so you're already ahead of the game. I went to a job fair last week and it was over 200 people there, but it was only three wielders," said Shaw.

"We place a strong emphasis on job readiness. We have a life skills component to this class. We really try hard with character-building type programs, included in that is a Bible study every day that they attend class," said Swets.

The program also provides mentoring and support to families of those who are incarcerated.