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American RadioWorksDocumentaries Hard Time: Life After Prison
Scraping By  |  Marsha and Sons  |  Collateral Damage: East Durham

Gudrun Parmer

Gudrun ParmerThe greatest need is a job. A lot of people, almost everybody comes out of prison and they have some type of home plan. It might not be a good home plan but they have some place to go to. But there are a lot of people—if they come from our Guess Road, the minimum security prison in Durham, if they come from there, they might have a job because they were on work-release while they were incarcerated, but those are the only ones that come out and they already have a job waiting for them. I think that's the greatest need. The greatest need is the employment piece and it's so hard right now for them to find employment. Because on top of the criminal record, the economy is so bad that it's hard for any of our offenders to find suitable jobs.

John Biewen: How does that compare with the way it was 2-3 years ago?

Two years ago—it was still hard because a lot of employers still look at records now, and a lot of our clients have felony records and violent records. A lot of times, the employers were willing to give them a break on the criminal record because the need for workers was so great, especially in construction, landscaping, the service industry. But now they can pick. Now they have more people that are looking for work than there are positions. So, our guys are usually the last ones on the list.

John Biewen: Is part of what the center does, does the center work with employers at all, looking for jobs?

Yes. We have an employment assistance component in addition to the other classes. We do classes where we teach them how to present themselves to an employer, how to fill out applications, and the whole process, the follow up. We also have, since we got a little bit of funding for this program, we have added a construction class, a construction trades class in collaboration with the community college. Because a lot of our reentry guys have no skills. Not only do they have a criminal record, a lot of them lack high school education, they also have no marketable skills. Besides maybe being on a work crew in prison, if that much. So we have added the construction trade component.

And then we work with, we know of some employers who in the past have hired, and if we have placed an offender there who has done fairly well then you know, there might be a better chance for that employer to give another offender a chance. But a lot of avenues that were open to us last year, two years ago, like the city, the city has hired some people with criminal records, but this year, even public employers have cut back and cannot hire.