Chickasaw County Jail’s joint work program helps inmates learn skills that could lead to future employment

HOUSTON, Miss. (WCBI) – While the nationwide labor shortage continues, it’s creating more opportunities for those with criminal records to find steady employment.

One of the ways that Mississippi inmates can prepare themselves to re-enter the job market is through a joint county state work program. The program allows qualifying state inmates to be placed in county jails and work for local government agencies while they serve their sentences.

“It saves having to pay money for another employee and then the good part about it for the inmates participating in that program, a lot of them when they get out, they go on to employment with that organization that they worked for,” says Chickasaw County Sheriff James Meyers who runs one such program.

“They either go to work, or they go back to the criminal life, or they get on public welfare,” says Sheriff James Meyers, describing the three options facing those who have served their time in prison.

He says in his experience, most people prefer option one.

“You’ve got your career criminal who doesn’t want to do any better, and we and we deal with a certain percent that’s like that, but you have a higher percentage that, once they do their time, they want to get out, get a job, and become a productive citizen,” the sheriff says.

A 2021 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 53 percent of professionals they spoke with would be willing to hire someone with a criminal record.

That’s up from 37 percent in 2018.

And with the U.S. Department of Labor listing 11.4 million open jobs due to the ongoing labor shortage, Sheriff Meyers says that 2022 is one of the best times for those looking to turn their lives around to find employment.

“People are getting more receptive to hiring people with a record,” he says.

Sheriff Meyers says he’s seen a high percentage of inmates in their program take the skills they’ve learned and find jobs after they’ve served their time.

“Once we get to know the inmate and they do a good job here, then we willingly will give them a recommendation on a work recommendation,” the sheriff says. “And a lot of times that’s very successful.”

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