Randall County program helps felons find work

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 about a year now Randall County has had a program in place that tries to ease felons into the workplace.  U.S. Chief Judge Sidney Fitzwater, Northern District of Texas says, "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.

Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson 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...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, " Richardson says.

It also educates potential employers of the value of participating.  Richardson adds, "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."

Participants work six months for the county and six months with an employer under case management.  There are 22 people in the program right now.