Job fair for criminal offenders held in downtown Albany - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Job fair for criminal offenders held in downtown Albany

The Good Will table set up at Thursday's job fair for criminal offenders The Good Will table set up at Thursday's job fair for criminal offenders
Isaac Gardner, Job Applicant Isaac Gardner, Job Applicant
Winfred Dukes, Dukes Edwards & Dukes CEO Winfred Dukes, Dukes Edwards & Dukes CEO
Leslie Lamb, Chief Parole Officer Leslie Lamb, Chief Parole Officer
Isaac Gardner, interviewing with an employer during Thursday's job fair. Isaac Gardner, interviewing with an employer during Thursday's job fair.
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Felons looking for a fresh start got a little help in downtown Albany Thursday.  The State Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Georgia Department of labor, and a handful of companies collaborated on a job that was the first of its kind in the city.

Probation officers said attaining and keeping a job is a tremendous challenge for offenders.  But they said steady employment plays a huge role in keeping them out of trouble.

The George Brown Hall at 125 Pine Avenue is full of men and women looking for a second chance.

"People say it's hard...it's hard to live down the past.  It's hard.  I don't care how much I give to a community, or how much community service I do, there's gonna always be that person that says 'Oh, that's that dope dealer,'" said Isaac Gardner, Job Applicant.

Isaac Gardner was released from prison two years ago, and has been struggling to find work.

"If you've got anything dealin' with breaking into stuff, or stealing folks money, or anything like that, it's hard.  It's gonna be super hard.  That's the biggest problem is being...that burglary on my record.  That's the biggest thing that killed me," said Gardner.

But employers are interviewing offenders like Gardner for some openings within their companies.

"If a man or a woman that's committed an infraction, and that have served their time and given their commitment back to society, then they really should have an opportunity to prove themselves," said  Winfred Dukes, Dukes Edwards & Dukes CEO.

Dougherty County employers and non-profit organizations are some of the participants in the fair.

It's all part of a larger effort to help reform offenders and give them the tools to succeed.

"Vocational Rehab, Good Will…we all are partnering together to work towards our clientele.  Because if an individual has a job, their likelihood of going back to prison decreases significantly," said Leslie Lamb, Chief Parole Officer.

Many employers are reluctant to hire applicants with a criminal past.  But Lamb said each offender comes with a team of problem solvers.

"When you're employing an offender, not only are you employing that offender, you have the parole officer, you have the probation officer, you have the federal probation officer there also.  So if there is an issue, if there is a concern, you have somebody else to call," said Lamb. 

But with a little luck, and help from the corrections department, Gardner and other job seekers like him can look forward to a brighter future.

Parole officers said the turnout was great, and say they expected about 250 offenders to show up by the end of the fair.

Chief Lamb said they're planning on hosting another job fair in six months, and she hopes more employers will take part.

Copyright 2013 WALB.  All rights reserved.   

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