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IN's HIRE saves money by keeping ex-offenders out of prison

Brandon Smith
Indiana Public Broadcasting

State leaders are calling a program to put former inmates to work a success. The Hoosier Initiative for Re-Entry – or HIRE – is a cooperative effort between the state departments of workforce development and correction, along with Indiana businesses.

Of the more than 20,000 people released from Indiana prisons each year, the Department of Correction reports 36% return to prison within three years.  The recidivism rate climbs to 60% if the person is unemployed.  The HIRE program was created last year to provide inmates a path to the workforce. 

Governor Mike Pence says helping people stay out of prison saves the state money.

“By working to help citizens re-enter society, become reliable workers, if five hundred ex-offenders remain employed and out of trouble with the law, that actually would save Hoosiers some $4 million a year.”

About 200 Indiana employers have hired more than 600 ex-cons since the program began last April. 

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Scott Sanders says his agency, along with the Department of Correction, provides education and training to inmates to prepare them for the workforce.  He also says his department works with employers to assure them that the ex-offenders they hire have been strenuously screened.

“There’s no gang affiliation with any of these individuals that come through the program.  No disciplinary action – they pretty much have to have a clean slate in prison for about two years.  They also have to have an ability to have a job and hold a job while in prison.”

Sanders notes there’s a federal tax credit for companies who hire ex-offenders, providing greater incentive to companies to take part in the program.

More information about the HIRE program is HERE.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.