Changing the past for a better future

By Brandi Bailey

Changing the past for a better future

March 27, 2013 Updated Mar 27, 2013 at 11:34 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Moving on from a state prison stint is an adjustment, but trying to find a job is a separate hurdle in an already struggling economy.

Thousand of inmates are released from prisons and jails in New York state each year.. But transitioning back into community and work life presents a challenge, experts say.

According to the New York State Bar Association, after serving a sentence many are not prepared to confront the world outside prison.

"Its challenging enough to look for a job in the economy in this town, but when you have that additional barrier they just need to keep their head up and keep going," Michelle Vroman-Harlec said.

Local programs like the Broome-Tioga Workforce and Broome County Reentry work with parolees and others to get them what they need before job hunting.

"Referral services to agencies to address immediate needs such as substance abuse or mental health, and we also allow programming to meet their needs recommended by the parole board like anger management, domestic violence programming," Jeff Pryor said.

After those needs are met, parolees can begin looking for employment.

"If you have a criminal background, it is most important to focus on your skills and abilities in a resume and not focus on your past," Vroman-Harlec said.

In Broome County, the need for reentry programs continues to grow.

"We are asked by the state to take a minimum of 10 parolees a month and we average currently 187 percent of that goal. We take 18 a month," Pryor said.

In 2011, more than 680,000 state inmates were released from prison looking for affordable housing and a paycheck.

For employers, there are tax incentives and federal programs used as incentives to hire those with a criminal record.