President Biden declared the month of April as Second Chance Month. On Tuesday, April 18 Goodwill Industries hosted the Second Chance Career and Resource Fair to contribute to the nationwide effort to help former inmates enter the job market. One in three American adults have a criminal record which limits their access to education, jobs, housing, and other things they need to successfully reintegrate into society.

Goodwill Industries has several reentry programs aimed at ensuring that previously incarcerated individuals who are released from prison do not return. These programs provide services that include case management, employment assistance, education and training assistance, mentoring, legal assistance, supportive services, and referral services to community partners. In addition to connecting these individuals to employers and community resources, the Second Chance Career and Resource Fair aimed to raise awareness and improve perceptions of people with a criminal record.

Renee Gill Pratt, Director of Engagement & Outreach (L) and Leslie Martin, Career Services Specialist (R)

Reneé Gill Pratt, Director of Engagement and Outreach for Goodwill Industries, spoke about having to reassure job seekers at the event who were previously incarcerated that all the employers were well aware that most potential candidates would have records. “We had to remind them that the employers were here because they were open to hiring individuals who were previously justice involved.” Leslie Martin, Career Services Specialist at Goodwill Industries, added that “we also want to change the way these individuals view themselves. Oftentimes they may not even attempt to apply for jobs because they feel like they won’t be given a chance.”

The Second Chance Career and Resource Fair was a success. Over 250 participants attended the event which boasted nearly 40 employers and over 20 different community resources and organizations. Employers at the event included Bollinger Shipyard, J Collection Hotels, Regional Transit Authority, Port of New Orleans, Ochsner Health Systems, Sewerage and Water Board, Liberty Kitchen, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) trade union. Resources included Café Reconcile, United Way, Catholic Charities, Operation Restoration, and Greater New Orleans Federal Credit Union. “We’d like to thank all of the employers and resource organizations that came out in support of this event and cause” said Patrick Dunn, Regional Employment Manager at Goodwill Industries. Kelly Derbigny, Community Coordinator for Goodwill Industries added that “we are so pleased that so many in the community share our mission.”

“People are searching for a way to provide for their families and be productive. When they are provided with the opportunity to have a stable income, they can focus on becoming better parents, spouses, and members of our society. The turnout we had at this event proved that we can make a difference by removing the barriers that make it difficult for those with criminal records to gain employment” said Gill Pratt.