County Program eases felons into workplace

by Larry Lemmons
Newschannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - The Randall County Sheriff's office is making an effort to ensure convicted felons don't return to jail.

For more than a year now the county has had a program in place that tries to ease felons into the workplace.  The fact is, once someone has been convicted of a felony, it's even harder to find work after he's served time. The likelihood of returning to prison is high, which means the cost to the community is high to continue to incarcerate. On the other hand, if that felon can become a productive citizen, he'll be contributing to the community.

U.S. Chief Judge of the Northern District of Texas, Sidney Fitzwater, says "We find that the ability to earn a living is one of the most important factors in predicting if someone is going to be a success after leaving prison."

Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson agrees. "Once people are released from prison they're coming back into our community one way or the other. And we prefer the other."

Randall County's Prisoner Re-entry Education Program primarily teaches a prisoner the value of having a work ethic."In a work program that benefits the county. In other words working on yards or working as custodial duties," says Richardson.  They also learn like skills like balancing a checkbook and taking care of a family.

The program also educates potential employers of the value of participating.  Richardson says, "They're not necessarily skilled jobs, but they're guaranteed for six months a work force that shows up, that's not high on drugs, that didn't get drunk the night before and they're right here ready to go to work and they'll be on time."

In all, six months working at the county and six months with an employer under case management.  There are 22 people in the program right now.