CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Well into the pandemic, the struggle to hire has shifted some employers’ views on hiring “second chance” workers, or formerly incarcerated people, in need of jobs.

It’s always been a challenge to get people with criminal records back into the workforce, but because of the pandemic, programs like Hamilton County Reentry have seen opportunities open up that might not have been possible in the past.

“I have people calling me regularly from organizations that have never hired someone with a criminal conviction in their background. They’re turning to second-chance hiring and giving parts of our population that have been marginalized and not included in the market — they’re giving them a chance and they’re seeing success with that,” said Trina Jackson, director of the Hamilton County Reentry Office.

It’s a reality for hundreds of people across Hamilton County. Just last year, 900 people were released from county corrections. Though they served their time, having a record can often seem like a life sentence.

“I’ve made mistakes. I was incarcerated, and a lot of people have the idea that, ‘OK, he was incarcerated. He’s no good. You can’t give him another chance.’ Well, I always tell people, ‘Hey, what if you were remembered for the worst thing you ever did?’” said Parker, who is the president of Innovative Labor and Cleaning Services.

Parker spent seven-and-a-half years in prison for bank fraud. When he was released in 2015, he wanted to make a way for himself and pave a path for people also trying to shake the shadow of their past.

With $500 to his name, he started his company, just weeks after his release. Parker has successfully connected hundreds of people looking for that second chance to employers willing to give them one.

“Everyone has done something and something they’re ashamed of, but when you can’t ever get past it — there has to be a way where it stops and you’re able to move forward,” he said.

Parker’s staffing company goes beyond finding people jobs in the labor and construction industry; they also help people get back on their feet.

“Once you’ve been incarcerated — even myself — when you come out, there’s other needs. There’s mental health needs, there’s basic health care, there’s housing. So we work to try and help people get their license. We have eight or nine vans that move people from job to job, so we take care of the transportation,” Parker said.

While Parker looks to hire second chance employees first, he also makes a point to employ people from low-income backgrounds.

Dorothy Smoot with the Urban League says at a time when businesses everywhere are looking to hire, they should consider skill over stereotyping someone’s journey.

“Many employers get to decide their own policies and practices for their employees. That’s where we have the most leeway; that’s where we have the opportunities is for companies to take a step back and determine their commitment to helping, to impact our community, our society,” said Smoot.

Hamilton County Reentry says the industries they’re seeing increased interest in hiring second chance employees include manufacturing, transportation and equipment maintenance. They say 40% of their clients are still in need of work.

Innovative Labor and Cleaning Services has dozens of jobs to fill; click here to search through openings.


As reported by Marella Porter, WKRC