When “Mary” graduated from the Luzerne County Drug Court program last year, she was excited to re-start her life. Sober and in the groove of attending required counseling and support meetings, she wanted a job.
What she had not anticipated were the road blocks she would face in obtaining employment. Although Mary had her high school diploma and was bi-lingual, she still failed to get the anticipated “call back” from potential employers.
Seemingly checking the box on an employment application that asked “Do you have a criminal record?” prevented her from moving forward in regard to employment and in regard to better living.
Grace Franks, treatment coordinator for the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, has coordinated a second annual job fair directed at those passing through the system, putting them in touch with employers who would consider hiring them.
Two job fairs are scheduled: the first on from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Jewelcor Building, Wilkes-Barre Boulevard; in Hazleton 9:30 a.m. to noon April 30 at Lackawanna College, Broad Street.
It is open to all participants of the Work Release Program, Day Reporting Center, Court Advocate Program, Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Restrictive Intermediate Punishment Program, and those supervised by the Luzerne County Department of Probation.
Franks is aware of the importance of employment as an economic and social foundation.
She said when individuals find employment, they get an income, sense of self-worth, something to just do for the day, something to keep them out of trouble and an opportunity to form healthy relationships.
“If you are employed and earning money, you are less likely to have unstable housing arrangements, less likely to steal, less time to do drugs and less time to get into trouble with that bad crowd you like hanging around with,” Franks said. “Being employed gives you a sense of pride, a sense of purpose, a feeling of independence. Employment is one of the many keys to successful re-entry.”
Luzerne County Judge William Amesbury looks forward to the event as an opportunity to connect applicants with potential employers and much more.
“When doors are opened for individuals they can succeed. It is when we slam those doors shut, that the jail doors swing open and shut, revolving in a vicious cycle. We as a community need to work to encourage success for those re-entering society, slamming doors does nothing but breed failure. For so many years I have sat around tables discussing problems. Just talking about the problem doesn’t solve the problem,” said Amesbury.
In encouraging a proactive attitude, Amesbury said, “If we want to reduce the recidivism rates we need to act, and having an annual job fair targeted at the criminal justice involved population is just one of the many things we can do to try and reduce these rates.”
Those who qualify to register and employers who would like to participate in the job fair may contact Grace Franks at 570-829-7741 ext 44.