Leslie Lamb, left, chief parole officer, Albany District 14-0, confers with Rod Porter, specialized officer, Albany Transitional Center and April Askew, manager of the Goodwill Career Center, about the upcoming Job Fair for Offenders. The fair is set for July 18, at George Brown Hall, 125 Pine Avenue.
ALBANY, Ga. -- A special opportunity for local employers to meet legal offenders trying to start a new life is set for July 18. According to Leslie Lamb, chief parole officer, Albany District 14-0, up to 18 regional employers are ready to meet reformed probationers, parolees or residents of the Albany Transitional Center. More and more, evidence seems to show that helping offenders find a job is a good thing all around.
"You can't expect people to make new lives if they can't provide for their families," Lamb said. "I'd rather them be contributing to the tax base and taking their place in the community as opposed to tax payers picking up a tab for $18,000 a year to house each one in a correctional institution. They need to have jobs."
Statistics seem to indicate that most offenders are just people who made bad choices in the past and want to do the right things now. According to April Askew with Goodwill Career Center, only 18 percent of offenders in Georgia re-entering society from transition centers return to a life of crime, That's much lower than the national average.
"The biggest difference is, they have jobs," Askew said.
Lamb said it was in the 1990's Georgia authorities began to understand -- tracking a wealth of offender data with advanced computer systems. Certain trends emerged.
"We found what offenders who failed had in common," Lamb said. "They'd reverted to their substance abuse issues, they didn't have a stable residence and there were employment or education issues."
Five years after that determination, specialists looked closely at the data of those who been successful on the straight and narrow. Those individuals had all the things that failures lacked, Lamb said.
"We have a lot of data that says, if you get somebody a job, they're going to succeed," Lamb said.
According to Rod Porter, specialized officer with the Albany Transitional Center on North Washington Street, offender success has been achieved at all levels of felony offense.
"We help place offenders from a broad spectrum of past crimes," Porter said, "From drug possession and sales to burglary. All the way to murder."
Many times, offenders may be the greatest obstacle to their own success -- not because they don't want to succeed -- but because they've been refused work before and assume the problem to be their criminal records.
"We try to give them the confidence they need," Askew said. "I think that with this job fair, instead of just sending in a paper resume, putting a face with a name can increase their chances. We tell (the offenders) 'it's not so much what you did but how you present yourself that counts.'"
According to officials, job fair participants will be required to register with their supervising officer, the Department of Labor, Goodwill Career Center, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitative Agency or Albany Second Chance.
The Job Fair for Offenders is set for July 18 from 8 a.m. till noon at George Brown Hall, 125 Pine Avenue and is provided at no cost to job applicants or participating employers. Officials say breakfast will be included. For further information call the Albany Transitional Center at (229) 430-3888; Goodwill Industries at (229) 317-0970; Department of Labor at (229) 430-5150 or Albany Second Chance at (229) 883-3440.