Employment services for formerly incarcerated expand in Tulsa
A nonprofit dedicated to helping people released from prison is expanding in Tulsa.
The Center for Employment Opportunities opened a new location on Denver Avenue and held an open house Thursday evening. CEO says they’ve helped thousands of former prisoners gain employment.
Rodney Fisher, who found work as a truck driver through CEO, says businesses should consider hiring former prisoners.
“People that’s been incarcerated, they don’t want to go back. They want to work hard, and show themselves, prove themselves. They’re gonna be some of the best workers, ‘cause if you work in prison when you don’t have to — you could be a bum in prison — but if you work in prison, you know you’ll work on the outside,” said Fisher.
Tiffani Shaw spent five years in prison. Now she works for the nonprofit JusticeLink helping people navigate their court cases. She said not everyone who’s been in prison is ready to work when they get out, but she agreed those who are make excellent employees because they have limited options.
“I’m a good worker. I will show up every day. I will show up when it’s snowing, I will show up when it’s raining. If my car breaks down, I know which bus to get on. You know why? Because I do not want to lose my job. I know how hard it is for me to get one,” said Shaw.
A report published by the Society for Human Resource Management estimates one in three Americans have a criminal background. But in 2021, 21% of business leaders said they’ve not hired anyone who’s been in documented trouble with the law. 38% were unsure if they have or not.
Chief Executive Officer of Bama Companies, Paula Marshall, said it’s unacceptable for employers to ignore former prisoners. She acknowledged that people coming out of prison have challenges like housing and child custody, but said that companies can easily raise money to help deal with those problems.
“It’s not optional. If you want to help people get back on their feet and keep them off the street, they have needs that have to be funded,” said Marshall.
Marshall said Bama Companies has worked with various organizations to employ as many as 40 former prisoners.
“They do really well. They will do anything to keep working. They will climb mountains,” said Marshall.
Shawna Detmer, site director for the Center for Employment Opportunities, said the nonprofit’s expansion will be helpful to many in the area.
“There are a lot of folks in Oklahoma who’ve been impacted by the criminal justice system,” said Detmer.
Currently, Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Oklahoma has an incarceration rate of 993 per 100,000 people. The national average is 664 per 100,000.