Insights and Perspective

 

Insights and Perspective

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Read the latest from Geographic Solutions.

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This is the second in a series from Geographic Solutions profiling the professionals working with justice-involved individuals in honor of Second Chance Month. The important work they do is key to reintegration into the labor market and the fabric of society.

Melody Norris is the Reentry Coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS). With over a decade of experience working in corrections, Melody joined the DWS three years ago, and has been working on a reentry program for close to a year. By targeting people who need a second chance, the department strives to support a thriving workforce and economy.

Melody, please tell us about the reentry work you do at Wyoming DWS.

Reentry has been a focus for our department, and, with my background and experience, I was able to start making the right connections between our agency and the Department of Corrections (DOC). We have piloted a program called Career Compass. This was created with the DOC and allows DWS to offer information about the programs [justice-involved individuals] can utilize upon release. We also created a résumé building module for offenders. Currently, we are applying for a grant that would allow us to expand this program exponentially.

What is the single biggest obstacle individuals face when returning from incarceration?

Obtaining employment is one of the biggest obstacles. We are working on educating and training businesses on the benefits of becoming a second chance employer. Wyoming is working towards building a network of second chance employers to bridge the gap between job openings and filling those openings with qualified employees who have a felony. Understanding we all have a role to play in Reentry changes how we do business.  

This is not easy work; what motivates you?

Reentry is everyone’s responsibility. Over 95 percent of offenders in prison will be released — if we are not looking to rehabilitate them while we have the opportunity, we are already behind. I have learned so much during my time working in a prison and understanding the weight of this mission of Reentry. I am grateful for this opportunity to build a bridge between the DOC and DWS and make a difference in Reentry.

We thank Melody for taking time with us, and commend the important work she is fostering in Wyoming.
 



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