When we started Pacific Reentry Career Services, one of our goals was to be advocates for fair chance hiring so we could help open up job opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. We held our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit back in June. Out of conversations at that summit, we realized there was a need for summits that focus on specific populations within the reentry community, which is why our November summit focused on the employment challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veterans.
Stephanie Hammerwold, Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director, started things off at the November summit with an overview of fair chance hiring and the challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veteran. Hammerwold also mentioned that employers can benefit form the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) when hiring veterans, the formerly incarcerated and other hard-to-place job seekers. Next, Cory Vigil from the Working Wardrobes VetNet program. Vigil shared his own story about being a formerly incarcerated veteran and talked about the value of support services in helping formerly incarcerated veterans rebuild their lives.
Vigil was also part of a panel with Frank Fletcher and Agent Raj Talwar. Fletcher is the Local Veterans Employment Representative at the Santa Ana Cluster of the California Employment Development Department, and Talwar is a Parole Agent Supervisor with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The panel discussed the challenges faced by the formerly incarcerated veterans they work with and also explained why employers benefit when they hire this population. Veterans in general have strong teamwork skills and a good work ethic. When an employer hires a veteran, they are getting someone who is organized and disciplined. Just because a veteran has experienced incarceration, it does not mean that they have lost these abilities. By providing the necessary support services and opening up job opportunities, we help grow this skill set while also giving a formerly incarcerated veteran the chance at a stable income and meaningful work, which are important steps toward reentry success.
After a group discussion about formerly incarcerated veterans and fair chance hiring, Edward Clarke of Need4Bridges left attendees with some inspiring words. Clarke's organization mentors formerly incarcerated people as they rebuild their lives, and he underscored the importance of supporting this community if we are going to help reduce the chance that people will recidivate. This includes providing job opportunities.
Thank you to everyone who attended and to the Orange County One-Stop Center in Irvine for hosting our event and to the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) for supporting all our events. We look forward to continuing to provide educational opportunities that raise awareness about fair chance hiring. Watch our blog and subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out about upcoming events.
Thank you to Christopher Reeve Linares for the pictures included with this post.