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New Job Center at Oakhill Correctional Institution Offers Inmates Hope upon Release

Wisconsin State Journal

By Rob Schultz

Mention an inmate’s release from prison and it’s easy to conjure up mental images of iron gates opening and guards saying goodbye to a scared individual like Brooks Hatlen, the old-timer from the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” who went on to commit suicide.

A new program at Oakhill Correctional Institution that offers inmates job-search assistance, resume development and career-readiness programs before their release has Wisconsin officials telling a more optimistic story.

“(Inmates) can walk out now to a future,” said Ray Allen, secretary of the Department of Workforce Development.

Other prisons in the state offer better opportunities for inmates to learn much-needed trades such as welding and auto mechanics so they have better opportunities to get jobs when they are released. But the job center at Oakhill, a fenced minimum-security facility in Fitchburg with 765 inmates, is being touted as the first of its kind within the prison system that teaches inmates how to find and apply for jobs and then gives them the tools to put what they learned to good use.

“The day they are released, they have interviews lined up,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Cathy Jess.

There are plenty of good reasons to create such a program. For instance, Jess pointed out that finding employment is one of the best ways for ex-inmates to avoid committing more crimes and returning to prison. Unfortunately for many ex-inmates, that’s a difficult proposition.

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