By Lisa Speckhard Pasque
Five men sit in a computer lab, combing through the Job Center of Wisconsin website. One man is filling in contact information for his references; one is scanning custodial jobs.
It may not seem exciting, but for these men, all inmates at Oakhill Correctional Institution, it’s a big step forward in helping them secure jobs after they’re released.
On Monday morning, Wisconsin officials gathered at Oakhill, a minimum-security prison about 10 miles south of Madison in Oregon, for a press conference to celebrate the first job center located inside a state correctional facility. The job center, a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Department of Workforce Development, will allow inmates to post resumes, find job openings and learn from workshops.
Oakhill Warden Cheryl Eplett called the new center a “groundbreaking initiative.” She looked back to her start as a social worker 27 years ago, when social workers helped inmates plan for their release. Employment, for the most part, was left up to “luck and chance.”
“I couldn’t have imagined securing employment at an on-site job center, creating resumes, applying for jobs and employer interviews all before release,” Eplett said. “Look at how far we’ve come.”
You’re crying, I’m not crying,” Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch joked as she took the podium at the press conference. “Bittersweet timing, but what a dream come true for our office.”