Terry Tribe-Johnson estimates that 1,500 to 2,400 people return each year to Summit County after being released from prison.
Not all are murderers. Or rapists. Or pedophiles.
“There are a lot of good people who come home who are transforming their lives, and want and need to work to support their families,” said Tribe-Johnson, coordinator of the Summit County Reentry Network, a collaborative effort involving nonprofit, faith-based and government agencies.
The Reentry Network will hold a seminar called Barriers to Employment for people with felonies from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Job Center, 1040 Tallmadge Ave. The event will feature information about how people can get jobs and will offer other assistance.
The worst decision people can make is not trying to find work because of a misconception that no company would hire them, said Laurie Norval, director of the Akron CNC Training Center, a machinist trade school. She will deliver the keynote address at the seminar.
“There are jobs that they can get,” she said. “A lot of it is a belief that I can’t get hired. There are jobs for people with felonies. Obviously, not as many, but there are jobs.”
She encourages people to look into skilled trades and said there is a major demand now for machinists in the Akron area. With many companies needing workers, they are more willing to overlook a felony record, she said.
“It’s a good time for people with felonies to get into manufacturing,” Norval said.
It’s important to remove barriers — also called collateral sanctions — that prevent people with felonies from getting jobs, Tribe-Johnson said. When those people are employed, they are paying taxes and helping the economy, she noted.
State leaders, under the direction of Gov. John Kasich, are looking into ways to remove some collateral sanctions to allow more felons to return to the work force. Officials estimate there are 1.9 million Ohioans with a felony or misdemeanor record.
The Summit County Reentry Network holds similar seminars on the fourth Friday of every month.
Attendance typically ranges from 18 to 38 people.
The organization also sponsors a weekly support group for people with felonies from 6:25 to 7:30 p.m. at the Front Porch Cafe, 798 Grant St.
“All we can do is help them to help themselves,” Tribe-Johnson said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.