WILMINGTON — The hard time people with a felony record have in obtaining jobs was the topic when two men, in hopes of improving things, met with county commissioners.
At the least, James Dixon and Michael Rolark prompted further consideration of the problem. Commissioner President Mike Curry said he thinks commissioners can have the same discussion with the workforce group at the local Jobs and Family Services, and see “what could be done.”
The focus of discussion was on offenders guilty of nonviolent lower-level felonies, and their difficulties in finding employment when they have a blemished record.
“Some [of them] don’t want to work, but if those who really want to work and change their lives were able to get jobs, then I think that’s something we as a community need to look at and try to help these individuals,” said Dixon, who retired after working 32 years in correctional facilities.
Pointing to participants in the local drug court, Dixon asked what, without employment, are they going to do after they get themselves straight.
Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said the issue was mentioned at a recent opiate-abuse forum held locally. Officials, he said, are thinking of the employment piece as “a missing link” in the response to the heroin and pain-killer epidemic.
“What’s missing are [enough] employers that are readily willing to accept some of these low-level, nonviolent felony offenders,” said Steed.
Later Steed said it’s important to remember there are “underlying societal issues that all the government programs in the world cannot fix yet,” adding that it’s key to instill decision-making skills before people are confronted with life-altering choices about trying drugs.
Dixon said at least some temporary staffing agencies say they can’t hire people convicted of a felony until four years pass.
He asked what is a person supposed to do for an income for four years. Dixon then added, “It’s almost like society just throws them right back out there into the streets.”
Clinton County Administrator Mary Ann Foland suggested Dixon and Rolark contact the local human resources association as a key audience for the topic. She provided them contact information.
Kerry said Jobs and Family Services has a program to assist employers of at-risk youth via reimbursed pay.
And Dixon and Rolark distributed printouts concerning the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ Work Opportunity Tax Credit program that provides federal tax credits to Ohio employers that hire people from a target group, including ex-felons.
They also passed out information on a federal bonding program that protects the employer in case of loss of money or property due to employee dishonesty.
In other activity at Wednesday’s session:
• Commissioners opened three bid proposals for an HVAC (heating, venting, air conditioning) system at the county Administration Building on East Sugartree Street. The bids, for both labor and material, include Accurate Mechanical at $141,525, Trame Mechanical at $146,734, and Weller Plumbing and Heating at $146,980. They said they will review the bids and make a decision.
• Commissioners accepted a proposal from Jacobs Telephone Contractors to repair courthouse phone lines for $9,117.
• Commissioners officially recognized April as Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Month.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.