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New job center helps inmates prepare for life after prison

OREGON (WKOW) — The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the Wisconsin unemployment rate is three percent and the number of open jobs is exceeding the number of unemployed workers.

The Department of Corrections is working to solve this problem by training inmates ahead of their release.

Monday, the DOC had a grand opening for its first job center inside a correctional facility.

“Almost everyday the conversation comes up about, ‘hey, I’ve been convicted, can I actually find a job?’ and the answer is yes,” said Oakhill Correctional Institution inmate, Kenneth Shong.

Oakhill is the first correctional institution to have a job center on campus.

“They finally have the connectivity to do that and access to employers to do that and also the skills to do that,” Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said.

The goal is to continue preparing inmates to contribute to society after their release.

“Preparing our offenders, our citizens, our soon to be tax payers to enter the community and not re-offend,” said Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Cathy Jess. “That is really the goal.”

At the Job Center, inmates have access to staff that can help them build resumes and learn interviewing skills. They also can use a computer with the Job Center of Wisconsin website on it, which has access to more than 100,000 jobs.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity,” Shong said.

After 19 months in prison, Shong will be released in 49 days. He’s applying to jobs in the education field.

“This takes care of one of the biggest fears when you get closer to getting out,” he said.

The job center is connecting Shong and other inmates to potential future employers.

“The employers don’t seem to be concerned with the fact that we’re coming from here, they’re looking for talent, they’re looking for skill sets,” he said.

The DOC also has an intensive vocational training program at Madison College to help people gain those skill sets.

The program has seen a 95 percent success rate when it comes to graduates receiving jobs after release.

Amanda Hari

Reporter, WKOW

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