MARION COUNTY, Ind. — A Marion County program to help people with criminal backgrounds re-enter the workforce returns to in-person meetings.
Starting Tuesday, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office Second Chance Workshop is no longer online. It’s reversing a switch that was made during the pandemic and is going back to face to face.
County prosecutor Ryan Mears says there were barriers to doing it online and returning to in-person removes those and allows them to make more of a connection with the people they are trying to help.
“There’s people who don’t have access to reliable internet. And so, you kind of exclude people when you do them virtual-based just because not everybody can log on to a website or has the ability to communicate that way,” said Mears.
“We’re asking these people personal questions about their background. And talking to a complete stranger over a computer is one thing but establishing that in-person relationship is even better. And the other thing is, it’s just easier to work through challenges and problems that you face and it’s easier to find a solution when everyone is in the room working together to try and figure these things out.”
The point of the workshop is to help people with criminal history either get their driver’s licenses or clean up their records.
“We have to bring these services to people and access to justice is a real issue. And this is our way of reaching out to the community and saying, ‘Hey, we’re trying to help so that people can move forward with their lives.'”
The prosecutor’s office has volunteers and representation come and help set aside thousands in traffic tickets and DMV reinstatement fees and then start the work to have some prior convictions expunged.
“When kids feel like they have a better opportunity, they don’t commit crime. And when adults have jobs, they don’t commit crimes,” said Mears.
“So, when you are able to help people get jobs and get into the workforce, these individuals are not going to be the ones out there committing crimes. So, this is the best crime prevention tool that there is.”
The first one back is Tuesday and another on Thursday. They’re something Mears says people were excited to see return, as shown by the sign-ups.
“I think it also goes to show how many people are looking for help. We opened the registration for these two events, and we had 375 people register within 48 hours. Which tells you the demand. We actually had to close the registration.”
They are planning to host at least one workshop a month moving forward.
“It just tells me how many people are out there in the community who want help, who want to do better, who want to be in a position to move forward with their lives.”
Click here to find out if you qualify and for details on registering.