Education officials offer job opportunities to West Virginians released from prison

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – An effort to help more West Virginians enter the workforce after drug recovery or incarceration is underway.

Jacob Green

Statewide, there are more job openings than people applying. Meanwhile, West Virginia continues to see high numbers of people with drug addiction.

Jacob Green, superintendent of diversion and transitional schools for the West Virginia Department of Education (WVSDT), told MetroNews that most of these people need help navigating their options.

“In the state of West Virginia, when they get out of jail, they have to go through 851 potential hurdles just because they have a criminal record,” Green said. “It could cause them problems accessing employment, housing, transportation, the list goes on.”

Green spoke at a Re-Entry and Recovery Works conference at the Charleston Marriott Town Center last week. The aim of the conference was to highlight education and employment opportunities for people who are struggling to find a good job.

Mendy Marshall, Director of WV’s Office of Adult Education, participated in the conference. Carrie Hodousek/WVMetroNews

“We know that if we can find a job and a decent salary for someone, all of these other hurdles become a little easier,” Green said.

Recent data from the WVDE shows that the number of incarcerated West Virginians has increased fivefold over the past 30 years, which means there will be many people who will eventually reenter society after serving their sentence.

“Regional jails are short-term, but even in jails with the new early parole, there are a lot more people coming out now than there were five years ago,” Green said.

Many people in the state prison system remain unemployed a year after their release.

The WVSDT provides educational services to more than 6,000 minors and adults in residential facilities and other public facilities.

Mendy Marshall, director of the WVDE Office of Adult Education, set up a booth at the conference to showcase his work.

“It’s a service we provide to adults who may not have the equivalent of a high school education, who may have had to drop out of school, or who need skills to enter the job market. , or even making the transition to post-secondary education and training,” Marshall explained.

The office offers high school equivalency testing and test prep, as well as customer service
skills, Microsoft Office certifications and more.

Virtual training is offered in addition to a device loaner program.

“If they don’t have a device at home and they’ve signed up for our class, they can check out a device so they can work on it at home. We try to remove as many barriers as possible to help them succeed,” Marshall said.

The State Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Drug Control Policy hosted the conference in partnership with WVSDT. Bureau director Dr. Matthew Christiansen told state lawmakers during a presentation on overdose deaths last month that more and more people are using the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Christianan added at the time that he “hopes” the numbers have peaked since the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital visits related to drug overdoses have stabilized, according to the DHHR dashboard.

Additional sponsors of last week’s conference include Jobs & Hope WV, Marshall University Health, REACH, Right On Crime, US Department of Justice, WorkForce West Virginia, State Division of Rehabilitation Services and West Virginia Reentry Councils.

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