SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Missouri Job Center hosted a justice-involved individuals panel to discuss the benefits of hiring former inmates to progress workforce development.
Inmates across Missouri are viewed by some as an untapped talent pool and a vital piece of the state’s workforce development puzzle. The Missouri Job Center has found a way to tap into that talent through the About Persons With Past Legal Issues in Employment Program (A.P.P.L.I.E.).
Employers gathered at the center in late-July to hear from a panel of former inmates and employers that have hired them. One panelist was Tanner Deveraux, who spent most of his adult life in and out of the system, until hearing about the A.P.P.L.I.E. program.
“I learned how to present myself, not as a felon, but as a person looking for a job. I made some mistakes [in the past] but that’s not who I am today,” said Deveraux.
With a background in welding, Deveraux secured a job in construction, and hopes to grow within the company that recognized his potential.
“I said ‘hey I have to see my P.O. next week, [my employer] said ‘just come see me after and we’ll get you to work.’ It was that easy, he didn’t hold my past against me,” said Deveraux.
The first few weeks out of prison is an important window– an inmate’s fork in the road between creating a new future, or retreating to past behavior. “It takes a long time to clear you name,” revealed Business Agent Derick Barnes, who recruits inmates for construction jobs before their release dates. “If it wasn’t for past offenses, [Heavy Construction Laborers] wouldn’t have half of our workforce,” said Barnes.
Both men believe that conversations like the justice-involved panel will clear the road for filling even more positions with those who want a second chance like Deveraux.
“My past doesn’t define me. Instead, it’s given me perseverance and made me who I am today.”