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Many individuals face difficulty reintegrating into the job market after being incarcerated. An employer summit is being planned for September by the Missouri Job Center and East Missouri Action Agency to bring together stakeholders in the topic.

An employer summit is being planned for September through a partnership between the Missouri Job Center and East Missouri Action Agency with the hope of connecting individuals who have been incarcerated with employers willing to hire them.

The summit will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 25 at the Farmington Public Library. Registration for the event is $15 per business (not per attendee) and includes a continental breakfast. Registration must be submitted by Sept. 18 and can be completed by contacting the Missouri Job Center in Park Hills at 573-518-2431.

East Missouri Action Agency L.I.F.E. Program Coordinator Rob Baker said the planned summit comes after conversations between the agency and Missouri Job Center regarding job opportunities for previously incarcerated, or "justice involved" individuals.

“The staff from the Missouri Job Center and I met early this year, around February, and we were discussing two things: one, they were seeing local employers who were hiring offenders and they were also seeing an influx of individuals that had been released from incarceration that were needing work.”

The problem, Baker said, is connecting those justice-involved individuals with employers who are willing and able to employ them, while also showing business owners the incentives of hiring those previously convicted of crimes.

“We toyed around with some thoughts and we came up with this idea to put together an employer summit where we could get some local employers who have had some success in working with justice-involved individuals and kind of create this panel discussion,” Baker said. “That would kind of be the highlight of this thing — where they could share their stories of how it’s worked for them and that they haven’t had that many issues. It would be a kind of peer-to-peer panel discussion.”

In addition to employers being present and discussing their experiences, Baker said there will be representatives from the federal bonding program, probation and parole and the Department of Corrections, with additional information being available regarding the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

These presenters will discuss the education opportunities that exist for incarcerated individuals while they are in prison and how to interpret information on Case.net when employers are attempting to perform their own background checks.

“We’re also hoping that we might have one or two justice-involved individuals that have been given an opportunity and are successful — they’re working and doing all the stuff they should be doing — so that they can share how they’ve benefited just by somebody giving them the opportunity to work.”

Baker described the situation facing many individuals after being released from incarceration and being placed on parole or probation as it relates to finding work.

“They get this double-edged sword when they’re released,” he said. “They’re on parole, so they have these stipulations, with parole telling them they have to have a job. They’re going out and trying to find a job, and a lot of times they’re shot down as soon as they check the box that says, ‘have you ever committed a felony?’

“They may never get into the interview process even though they may be skilled and their crime may have taken place 15 years ago and have nothing to do with the job they’re applying for.”

Baker said individuals on parole or probation who fail to find work can be placed back in prison, which in turn, costs Missouri more financially.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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