John Wetzel- PA Secretary of Corrections

“We put a scarlet letter on people who were convicted and we shoot ourselves in the foot. You know? We get someone out we say we want you to work we want you to pay your fines, costs, and restitution, but you can’t work “here, here, here, here and here.” So what’s left? You have a better chance of owning a McDonalds than working at a McDonalds. I’m not picking on McDonalds, but that’s the reality. You have a better chance of being an entrepreneur than getting hired by somebody. Now, I see that swinging a little bit. I was fortunate enough to be at an event at the white house on employment last year that Thomas Perez, the Secretary of Labor and Industry chaired that had big employers from around the country talking about how they engage former offenders and correctional practitioners and others, together. So I see light at the end of the tunnel.

One of our biggest employers who’s in Maryland is Johns Hopkins Hospital. I tell people that because when people tell me, “Oh, we can’t hire offenders.” I say, “ Johns Hopkins can.” You put checks and balances in place. You do background checks. You don’t put someone in a situation. You don’t have someone who has certain crimes in areas that are consistent with their crime that would make them more likely to commit that crime. But you make good choices. Home depot is there, Mineke, the trucking industry, the gas industry, there was a shipbuilder from Rhode Island who said, “We don’t even do background checks. It’s hard work we’ll pay you lots of money, if you want to do the work come see us.” The thing is, all of these organizations who are there have had success with them. They haven’t had 100% retention rate but they also haven’t had the horrible event that we all make up in our minds. “

-John Wetzel- PA Secretary of Corrections

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