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State expands Second Chance jobs program to women’s prison

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The Second Chance job training program of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce and the state Department of Corrections has been expanded into the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution for women.

The program, which was started in November 2014 at the Manning Reentry/Work Release Center in Columbia, is designed to help inmates learn a skill and understand how to successfully search for a job when they’re released. In more than two years, 765 people have completed the program, according to a press release.

“Helping returning citizens find a job as they leave prison has a tremendous positive impact on their lives by giving them purpose and reducing the possibility that they will be incarcerated again,” said Cheryl Stanton, executive director of DEW.

DEW has hired a full-time employee to work at the Graham facility, located in Columbia, to coach and assist inmates on track to be released soon develop work-skills needed to find employment. Six months prior to release, inmates are taught employment and soft skills in class for one hour each day.

During the last 30 days, participants work with a DEW counselor to become registered in the SC Works system, craft a resume and apply for jobs online once released. The skills they learn through the Second Chance Initiative help leverage the skills they’ve acquired through the work programs.

Participants in the program must meet specific requirements including a disciplinary-free record and non-violent offenses for incarceration. Upon release, they receive a folder that includes a federal bonding letter as well as information for businesses about potential tax credits available when hiring a returning citizen for which the employer could be eligible.

“Providing job training to offenders gives them self-confidence, direction and a skillset for their betterment now and upon release,” said Bryan Stirling, director of the Department of Corrections. “This job training also increases public safety by decreasing the recidivism rate, which is lower for people who have jobs, reducing the burden on the system and the taxpayer,”

Businesses interested in being a Second Chance employer, contact Grey Parks at bparks@dew.sc.gov.

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