OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - A local technology center is joining the state's criminal justice reform efforts.
The Moore Norman Technology Center is training professionals to help recently-released prisoners become successful citizens.
With our state's recent mass commutation, MNTC staff says it comes at a perfect time.
"Now we have this new untapped, under-utilized pool of employees and businesses in Oklahoma who desperately need workers," said MNTC adult programs coordinator Traci Saor.
They're holding training seminars for professionals who want to become re-entry employment specialists to help recently-released prisoners looking for work.
“An RES practitioner might be a case manager, it might be an HR manager, it might be transition services, social services, housing, transportation, substance abuse counselor. All of those folks qualify to be RES specialists,” said Saor.
A specialist would connect those who are just out of prison, or justice-involved individuals, with the right resources.
"In past years, it’s not been uncommon for a justice-involved individual to be released and 'here’s your packet of 50 dollars, good luck,'” said Saor. “The department of corrections is now working with individuals to have them ready when they’re released with a driver’s license, a state ID- those kinds of things that you can’t apply for a job unless you have those.”
The seminar also teaches potential employers what to look for during the hiring process.
"If you’re hiring an employee, what kind of other things do you need to consider before you hire them and help them maintain their employment?” said Saor.
A lot of second-chance employers need people for hands-on work and don't always require a specific resume.
"You're seeing more of the mom and pop businesses, and maybe in specific fields like welding, construction, tile-laying," said MNTC adult programs coordinator Ernie Gomez.
The bottom line is to make the re-entry process more cohesive.
"You cannot have a good employee if that employee doesn't have a place to live, doesn't have transportation, is fighting a substance abuse issue, but if you have a network of people supporting that individual who very much wants to return to society… then they're more likely to succeed," said Saor.
The first seminar is March 11th-13th, but it filled up quickly, so they are planning to host another seminar in May.