Maryland DPSCS Sharpens Re-entry Focus With Career Fairs At Pre-release Facilities 

The incarcerated man on the brink of release said he was 20, but looked much younger. Facing long odds for job prospects and an uncertain future, he sauntered into the Baltimore City Correctional Center gymnasium and was startled to find a potentially life-changing scene unfolding before his very eyes. 

At 15 tables set up along the walls were representatives from huge companies like Perdue Chicken, Flagger Force, and Sysco, and providers of vital services like the MD Insurance Administration and the MD Dept. of Labor.
Veteran Parole and Probation agents and supervisors were poised to answer questions from those who were about to transition from incarceration to supervision.
And in the middle of the gym sat the very leader of the state’s largest agency, intently focused on helping two inmates navigate their next steps.
“We know,” said the leader, MD Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) Secretary Robert Green, “that if you walk out of here with a job and with information you need to go home, you’re far more likely to stay home and be successful. That’s our goal today.”
Welcome to the latest Career and Reentry Fair sponsored by the DPSCS Reentry and Transition Services team. The events, which rotate from facility to facility in all regions of the state, are an all-out effort to reduce recidivism by giving men and women who are within a year of release the opportunity to interact with hiring companies, state agencies, and service providers, all in one place. 
“There’s something here for every person in this room,” Pre-release Warden David Greene told the first group of 40 men who sat before him. 
Added Richard Chambers, the DPSCS Executive Director for Social Work and Reentry Services: “This Department and this Secretary are absolutely committed to providing you with what you need before you go back home. We want you to succeed.”  
That young-looking incarcerated man quickly learned that this was more than mere talk. As he made his way around the room, the man with the fast-approaching release date had an armful of materials.
He had found Flagger Force to be of particular interest. That company, which provides traffic control at construction sites from New Jersey to Florida, has hired many formerly incarcerated people to staff its 1,000 trucks and supplement a workforce of 1,900.
“Flagger Force is a fair-chance company,”  said Shea Zwerver, the company’s Director of Workforce Development. “We have over 1,900 employees, and many of them have criminal records. We want to find the best talent for our company, regardless of their background. People with criminal records are locked out of work for far too long. After paying their dues, they deserve the dignity of work.” 
Her partner Alaina Landis added a succinct follow-up: “Their conviction does not define their character.”  
Such talk was music to the ears of “PF,” an older man who had held a steady transportation job for years until his incarceration.
“This is a great effort,” he said, noting his release date of May 2023. “People who really want to make it out there can take advantage of this in a big way.” 
“We’re doing evidence-based work that we hope will lead to more and more people leaving incarceration and not coming back,” said DPSCS Assistant Secretary Carolyn Scruggs, whose purview includes all re-entry programs and services. “We can’t just incarcerate and expect individuals with needs to magically improve their lives.” 
As she spoke, the young-looking man readjusted the thick pile of papers in his arms as he made his way from a service provider to another potential employer.