INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – More than 60 community vendors and 25 employers came together to help previously incarcerated people back on their feet.
"Coming together as a community to pull together an event like this is what’s necessary to see change,” said Gregory Meriweather, Strategic Initiative Liaison for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Change is the main goal at the Road to Recovery job fair. Organizers say the goal of changing habits starts with a change in mindset, both from jobseekers and the public.
"When you see what’s happening here, you see the community is showing that we support you," Meriweather said. "That's one of the main components of really building a person up.”
For many with a criminal past, re-entering society is easier said than done. When they get out of jail, there aren’t necessarily a lot of doors open to them.
“When people see a criminal record, it’s automatically a negative connotation attached to them," said Asia Myles, a student at IU's McKinney School of Law and a member of the Second Chance Reentry Assistance Program. "We want to break that barrier.”
That’s why their group, called "SCRAP," helped bring together more than 25 employers to collect resumes. It's opening doors, and giving people a path to change.
“They just need a chance," said Shontovia Atkinson, a manager of the Goodwill Reentry Program. "A lot of people come home and they want to do better, they want that opportunity, and when it’s not offered they just return to what they knew before.”
After spending time behind bars, a resume can be hard to build. That’s where volunteers like Chris Larbi come in.
“There are employers out there willing to give them a chance," Larbi said. "How well are they able to convey the things they’ve learned in that gap period?”
On top of jobs, some people need help with child support, getting a license and also putting their past behind them.
“They come out with a lot of baggage," said Jima Fahnbulleh, the Vice President of the IU McKinney Black Law Students Association. "Having a one stop shop where we can help them clear some things off and do it in an easy manner, or at least show them the way of how to do it, I think that makes a world of difference for them.”
Even the Marion County prosecutor was on hand, saying since Indiana’s Second Chance Law went into effect in 2013. His office has helped with more than 17,000 expungements.
”We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve helped individuals who have not re-offended, to seal that former conviction which is obviously an impediment to employment, to housing, to credit...” explained Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.
With all this support, organizers hope this event can help change the lives of others, making the right path easier to access.
“We want to reduce people going back to prison," Meriweather said. "I think that if we can help put a dent in that we can put families back together.”
For those who weren't able to attend the event, you can contact SCRAP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.