Thanks to a partnership with Goodwill, Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole Services and a local nonprofit, inmates with nonviolent or sex-related crimes are getting a second chance following their release.
"Since it's so difficult for people, especially those who have gone through some level of incarceration, there's a lot of employers who just don't give people a second look,” Goodwill director of training and employment services said. “At Goodwill, we remove that barrier to employment.”
The partnership has the potential to help dozens of incarcerated men and women with nonviolent or sex-related crimes.
The program is not just for developing job skills. For Amanda Parsons, it is helping her build a career.
“There's other employees here that were formerly incarcerated, and they are now shift leads and managers and they're trying to train me to be a more versatile employee for that,” Parsons said. “In fact, my schedule changes next week.”
Parsons currently lives in transitional housing and is now a Goodwill cashier, a job she said is helping to save her life.
“When I get out, I plan on doing something different for the first time in my life, well, for the first time since I was 20 years old and started getting into that addiction,” Parsons said. “Now, I am sober and I’m just ready for things to be different.”
Lynde Gleason with the Education and Employment Ministry Organization said there are not many resources out there like Goodwill’s for people working to get back on their feet.
“Unfortunately, Oklahoma has had a mass incarceration problem for years and its impact is felt not only through the individual that was incarcerated, but their family and our community,” Gleason said. “We have to find opportunities to include them. They're our neighbors and help them reintegrate successfully.”
Without the support of the program, Parsons said it would be easy for history to repeat itself.
“You need to change your whole surroundings,” Parsons said. “I'm not even going back to the neighborhood I’m from. I plan on moving to the northside of Oklahoma City, which is a totally different world for me.”