Harrisburg, PA – Department of Corrections Sec. John Wetzel recently spoke to employers at a roundtable hosted by the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce about the benefits of hiring reentrants from the state corrections system. The event, "Hiring: Second Chances Equal Smart Choices," featured a panel of corrections professionals speaking about the value of hiring individuals who were incarcerated.
"I can't tell you how important this issue is," Sec. Wetzel said. "Unemployment is at an all-time low, and employers need qualified people to fill jobs. We have a group of employable individuals who can make this a win-win situation for everyone involved."
Wetzel highlighted the valuable steps made by Governor Tom Wolf in criminal justice reform—most notably the passage of the Clean Slate Act, a first-in-the-nation law that seals eligible criminal records. Even with significant progress, reentrants still need opportunities offered by employers.
"Each year the DOC releases about 20,000 people," Wetzel said. "I guarantee you're going to run into one of them. We all have a role in reentry and that is to provide them with the skills to obtain successful employment."
The event began with a lunch catered by inmates in the DOC's Culinary Academy, one of the DOC's most popular vocational training programs. Inmates who graduate from the program earn a ServSafe certification and are qualified for in-demand culinary jobs. Wetzel cited the Culinary Academy as an example of the DOC identifying a need in the community and creating a program to fulfill that need.
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President Gene Barr spoke about his work with inmates and reentrants and stressed the importance of giving them a chance. He emphasized reentrants are often hard-working, loyal and appreciative of opportunities.
The bulk of the program included a panel featuring: Lebanon County Jail Deputy Warden Tina Litz; Lebanon County Probation Services Director Sally Barry; Murry's Inc Human Resources Manager Terri Emler; I Am Fit Owner and Reentrant Ernie Groff; DOC Deputy Secretary of Reentry Kelly Evans; and DOC Workforce Development Specialist Dorenda Hamarlund.
Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Sec. W. Gerard Oleksiak closed the event by highlighting the work his agency and the Wolf Administration are doing to help employers hire reentrants.
"We need to give them opportunities," Sec. Oleksiak said. "It's not about charity—it's about sound business decisions."
MEDIA CONTACT: Susan McNaughton, 717-728-4025
# # #