Opportunity for a second chanceI had the wonderful opportunity to travel throughout the country while serving in the army. During my travels, I would tell people I met that I was a Hoosier, and no matter where I was, the term “Hoosier” was met with a friendly response. People recognize that being a Hoosier means you likely have a good work ethic, look for what is best in a person and are always there with a helping hand. Those values resonate in the Hoosier Initiative for Re-Entry program (H.I.R.E), which is a joint effort between WorkOne, the Department of Corrections and local businesses.
The H.I.R.E program, in conjunction with legislation that has been passed over the last few years fostering rehabilitation, will help give those who have a criminal record or served time a second chance after incarceration to be employed. The General Assembly has worked to provide tools for Hoosiers who have committed lesser offenses that are non-violent and non-sexual with a means to move from their past indiscretions. If someone committed a crime and does the time, their acts shouldn’t be a shadow that forever prevents them from being able to provide for their family or find employment.
The extensive process to become eligible for the H.I.R.E program makes sure that we are giving an opportunity to those who have earned it. The individual must not have any gang affiliation or disciplinary action while incarcerated. The individual must have held a job while in prison and acquire a letter of recommendation; soft skills are also necessary. The individual must show up for work on time every day and stay clean.
Since the program’s inception, the H.I.R.E program has employed over 600 individuals with an 86 percent retention rate. There are currently 215 businesses around Indiana participating in the H.I.R.E program, a number that has continued to increase.
Not only is this program helping the individual and their family, it also makes a difference and benefits Hoosier taxpayers. Every year, more than 20,000 offenders are released from Indiana prisons after having completed their sentences. Of those who are released, 36 percent of them return to prison within three years. If the individual remains unemployed, that rate increases to 60 percent. The estimated yearly cost to taxpayers for one inmate is $20,000 with the average time served being 7.8 years, so Hoosiers will save around $4 million a year if just 500 ex-offenders remain employed.
A petition to expunge a conviction may be filed no earlier than one year after an arrest that was not prosecuted or if a conviction was overturned. Those who want to petition for a misdemeanor must do so no earlier than 5 years from the date of the conviction. To have a felony charge expunged, the petition must be filed 8-10 years after the date of conviction.
In Indiana, we are looking for ways to create a better community for Hoosiers, built by Hoosiers. This can only happen if we give people, who have shown promise to turn their life around, a shot to be constructive members of society. The crimes that were committed were detrimental to our state, but we can help to keep those crimes from being recommitted by giving the perpetrators a chance to right their wrongs. Hoosiers look for ways to give someone an opportunity to better their lot in life, and the H.I.R.E. program is a way to do that.
Rep. Arnold (R-Leavenworth) represents portions of Spencer, Dubois, Perry, Crawford and Orange counties. Rep. Arnold serves as Vice Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and also serves on the Education Committee, Roads and Transportation Committee as well as the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee.