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Second Chance Job Fair Helps Inmates Prepare for Release
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An inmate visits with a potential employer at the Second Chance Job Fair at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
An inmate visits with employers at the Second Chance Job Fair.
Jackie Hendry

Ten employers and more than 70 inmates participated in the Second Chance Job Fair at the South Dakota State Penitentiary. The event helps men who are currently incarcerated prepare for the next chapter of life and envision a place in their community beyond the penitentiary.

This is the first job fair of its kind at the penitentiary, and it’s the result of nearly six months of partnerships and preparation.

Denise Guzzetta is the Vice President of Talent and Workforce Development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation—one of the event hosts. She says the foundation invited employers based on key job openings in the local business community.

“So we have electricians, we have welders, we have construction workers, we have metal fabricators. So we have a lot of people here today to kind of fill these critical needs and these critical jobs for the business community.”

One of the prospective job-seekers is Daniel Rose. He worked for twelve years in the hospitality industry and had most of a chemical dependency counseling degree under his belt, when a layoff triggered a relapse. He’s serving time for drug-related charges. He says a day like this is exciting, but also nerve-wracking for him and other members of his unit.

“Cus a lot of these guys are down on themselves anyways because of where we are, you know? We’re a convict, you’re in prison, you’re a criminal, you’re a felon. And they get that block in their head automatically. I can’t get a job, cus I’m a felon. Well, this hopefully gives them some hope. And, to say, hey, you know what? There are people out there who are looking.”

Rose himself was a hiring manager and tells the others that any employer is looking for a diamond in the rough.

Chris Houwman, President of Malloy Electric, says he was intrigued by the job fair and thinks his company can benefit from the skills these men can offer.

“And I’m happy that employers are starting to look at people that maybe have made a mistake in their lives. They’re not categorizing them like maybe it used to be. And that’s a good thing.”

The next Second Chance job fair is planned for some time in April—national Second Chance month.