THE BLOG

Inaugurate Hope

01/22/2013 03:26 pm ET | Updated Mar 24, 2013

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/baker-industries/inaugurate-hope_b_2528362.htmlBy Beth Tiewater, Director of Projects and Resources at Baker Industries

Inauguration Day in America signals a new era, a chance to right wrongs, an opportunity to try again.

Imagine this is your new beginning: you're wearing an orange jump suit and have nothing but a couple of bus tokens in your pocket. Here's what you have to do: find a place to live and get a job ASAP. You've got no home, no clothes, no resume, no current ID, and if you are lucky enough to find a job, your employer needs to understand that you're going to miss work for mandatory regular meetings with your parole officer during work hours. Now GO! Start that new life!

That is what offenders face when they're released from prison. National Institute of Justice survey results suggest that 60-75 percent of ex-offenders are jobless up to a year after release. We know that stable employment is an important predictor of reentry success and the best way to reduce recidivism. Yet people are being released every day with almost no chance of making it. The burden on taxpayers has been tremendous. It would benefit us all to help these returning prisoners transition successfully back into society.

Baker Industries strives to do just that. A non-profit work rehabilitation program, Baker gives ex-offenders a place to work where their special needs are understood. At our warehouses in Malvern and Philadelphia, ex-offenders learn how to transition from the very structured environment of prison in which they had virtually no control over their lives to the responsibilities of the real world. Our aim is to teach them the importance of getting to work on time and doing your best each and every day. To do the right thing even when no one is watching over you. Along with that, Baker works with them on life skills such as budgeting and anger management. Our goal is to see ex-offenders move on to jobs in the regular work force, which allows them to take care of themselves, build self-esteem, and be a valued member of a community.

The ex-offenders' return to community presents them with a plethora of options and temptations. Basic decisions such as where to sleep, where to seek employment, and who to associate with confront them the minute they hit the street. To an inmate who has been incarcerated any length of time, these challenges can cause feelings of intense stress. To someone who has no control over their lives while locked up, each of these problems can be overwhelming.

Let's show them we care about their future as well as the future of our communities. On this Inauguration Day, let's work together to give everyone a fresh start, a fair chance, and the tools they need to succeed.

Inaugurate hope this January.