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HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind.– Hamilton County has a new program that’s helping those who are incarcerated learn skills in the hospitality industry.

“This is a community that’s led by people who believe in second chances,” said Mike Thibideau, President and CEO of Invest Hamilton County.

Hamilton County’s new hospitality program is a partnership between ‘Invest Hamilton County’ and the sheriff’s office. It aims to bring more employees to the hospitality industry, which took a hit during the pandemic.

“It’s a really good opportunity for them to gain some generic soft-skills and customer support experience that we know has a lot of economic mobility,” Thibideau said.

Inmates meet once a week for 10 weeks. At the end, they receive a certification from the American Hotel Lodging and Education Institute.

“It’s hotel-based, about really dealing with people,” said Eric Floyd, a graduate of the program.

Floyd is in jail on drug and resisting law enforcement charges.

He is a new graduate of the program.

“For somebody to come to a facility where people are in trouble and say we want to give you a chance to turn it around, I’m excited and grateful,” Floyd said. “Very thankful for the opportunity.”

The program is paid for by Hamilton County Tourism.

“Hospitality jobs are a big boom in Hamilton County right now and they kind of had a down turn in COVID,” said John Lowes, Chief Deputy of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. “There are a lot of job openings.”

Deputy Lowes says the program is used as motivation for the inmates to look forward, instead of dwelling on the past.

“They’re here in the jail but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, they just made a mistake,” Lowes said. “Everybody deserves a second chance and we want to give it to them.”

“It’s supposed to be not promising of a job but promising of a skill and certification for a job upon release,” Floyd said.

Floyd is excited for his release and to use these skills to better the community and pay it forward. 

“To people that are incarcerated, there’s always a chance,” Floyd said. “It’s always a second chance.”

So far, they’ve had two groups of men go through the program. Just last week, they enrolled their first group of women. They hope to expand the program in the future.

As far as who is eligible for the program – inmates who apply go through a series of interviews. The teacher of the hospitality program does the interviews. The sheriff’s department says individuals charged with violent crimes or with an extensive criminal history are not allowed.