Ex-inmates in York County get ‘Second Chance’ at job fair

After leaving jail or state prison, former inmates face an uphill battle when they’re applying for jobs.

“They come out really lost, not knowing which direction that they need to go,” said Cristie DeWitt, site administrator for Pennsylvania CareerLink in York County. “Without having some kind of money, it’s hard to pay their fines, pay their rent, put food on the table, (buy) things for their children.”

To help these men and women get back on their feet, rebuild their lives and reduce recidivism, the York County Reentry Coalition sponsored a Second Chance job fair Wednesday, June 12, at the York County Administrative Center.

About 30 companies sent recruiters to meet with more than 200 people having difficulty finding jobs because of their criminal records.

“If more people were opening doors and stopped looking at your past history, I think it would be a lot better for the inmates that are coming home, who paid their debts to society and are willing to change and not go back to their bad habits,” said Jamar Johnson, a job-seeker at the fair.

Johnson, 43, of York City, was released on parole from prison in 2016 after serving six years for charges related to drugs and possession of a firearm.

His first job out of the gate was at a pizza place. After about six months, Johnson found work loading garbage trucks on a route for a waste management company.

But after the company changed its payroll structure, which resulted in a pay cut for Johnson, the father of five decided to look for something else, which brought him to Wednesday’s job fair.

It hasn’t been easy for him to find other work.

“I’ve never been in trouble since I’ve been home,” he said. “I’m doing positive things, hanging around positive people.”

Johnson said some companies are open to giving former inmates an opportunity, but there are others who only judge them by their past records, so a job fair with employers who want to provide that second chance is very much needed.

“There’s a lot of good guys coming from jails that do want to change (and) don’t want to resort back to that type of lifestyle,” Johnson said.