WILKES-BARRE — When “John” graduated from the Luzerne County Drug Court program last year, he was excited to start a new life. Having completed the requirements of the program — staying clean and sober and being reunited with his family — he was willing to work to make his dreams reality.
What he had not anticipated was the difficulty he would have in obtaining employment. Checking the box on the application that asked “Do you have a criminal record?” sometimes meant extensive questioning during an interview. Often it meant he did not get an interview at all.
Grace Franks, treatment coordinator for the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, is aware of the challenge of employment in the lives of those in the criminal justice system, has coordinated the county’s first job fair directed to those passing through the system by putting them in touch with employers who would consider hiring them.
The job fair to be held on Aug. 13 at the Emergency Management Building, Water Street, will have two sessions: from 9:30 to noon, and from 4 to 6 p.m.
It is open to all participants of the Work Release Program, Day Reporting Center, Court Advocate Program, Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Restrictive Intermediate Punishment Program, and all individuals being supervised by the Luzerne County Department of Probation.
“During a recent survey of inmates asking them to note barriers to their success, finding employment was one of their top concerns,” said Franks. “Without employment and without income, they remain at risk to re-offend.”
She also said those who have succeeded in maintaining employment have an increased sense of self esteem and are more likely to successfully reunite with their families. She cites many benefits of employment not only to the individual, but to the entire community as well, with an increase in productivity and an decrease in the crime rate.
Franks also lauds the efforts of county Judge William Amesbury, who presides over the drug court program.
“Judge Amesbury’s previous experience in social work and his positive commitment to the criminal justice system provides the vision vital to making this system work,” she said. “He truly embraces the concept that supporting those within that system makes it possible for them to succeed in the long term.”
She credits those agencies within the community that have made the job fair possible.
The Luzerne County Department of Probation Services and the Luzerne County Division of Corrections, the Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton chambers of commerce, and CareerLink have been instrumental in getting the word out and making the event possible.
Those who qualify to register and employers who would like to participate in the job fair may contact Grace Franks at 570-829-7741 ext 44 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We look forward to appropriately placing those we serve in positions that will benefit themselves, future employers, and our county,” said Franks. “We believe this job fair can make that happen.”