Program helps ex-prisoners find jobs, employers fill vacancies

The labor shortage has prompted more businesses to become fair chance employers, hiring former prisoners.

Job site Indeed reports listings open to ex-convicts have gone from 1% in 2018, to peaking at more than 3% this year.


A Texas program that gives prisoners job training and coaching from volunteer business executives, is not only helping reduce recidivism, but also helping employers fill vacant jobs.

One of its success stories is Jeremiah Martinez. You could say he's a new man after a troubled childhood.

"That led me to a life of violence and drug use. That turned into organized crime," said Martinez. "That turned into a five-year prison sentence."


Now he's been working over a year as a Receivers Lead at Securus Technologies and helping to raise his son.

"I view myself through the lens of a man that has chosen to take responsibility," he said.

Martinez graduated from the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, or PEP.

"Skills that were prepping me for life. Authentic manhood, leadership academy, it takes a village, financial literacy," listed Martinez.


PEP is working to prevent former inmates from re-offending, teaching thousands of them both life and business skills to land jobs or become entrepreneurs.  

"We take them through Toast Masters. We put together their business plan. We teach them how to orate their ideas and give a pitch," explained PEP CEO Bryan Kelley.

Kelley graduated from the program himself after serving 22 years in prison.

"I’m living the dream every single day. I get to get out and help effectuate change for guys coming behind me," said Kelley.


While 50% of U.S. prisoners end up re-offending and returning to prison, Kelley says PEP's average is only 8%, and 4% for those who stay in the program for six months after prison.  

PEP is working to help fill the labor shortage for employers struggling to find good workers.

"They want some labor who are not afraid of working, people who are going to show up and stay for the duration, they’re going to do the job," said Kelley.


Cindy Pechal, Chief Human Resources Officer at Aventiv Technologies, ought to know. She hired Martinez and several others like him.

"They want to be involved and contribute to society. They don’t want to come out and rely on a family member, or return to what got them there in the first place," said Pechal.

She says many have a new kind of conviction.

"The authentic manhood, confronting the issue of what it means to be a man. I never had anybody confront me with that issue. Now it's become a conviction," said Martinez.