Program moving inmates into neighborhoods

Dept. of Corrections testing program to help ex-inmates get back to work

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's sure to be a hot button issue -- inmates moving into neighborhoods.

But the Department of Corrections is testing a program that would help former offenders re-enter the community.

State officers want your input and are holding a series of town hall meetings.

Channel 4 spoke with an inmate and members of Operation New Hope about getting ex-offenders back to work.

"You're going out there. You're trying your hardest to find a job and it's like, they're telling you no or they tell you they're not hiring," former inmate Josh Elmore said. "So it kind of gets a little frustrating sometimes."

Josh Elmore, 24, is talking about the barriers he encountered trying to re-enter the job force after his release from prison.

He's not afraid to admit to past mistakes, but more than anything he wants employers to know who he is now.

"Give a person an opportunity. Give a person an opportunity," Elmore said. "If he is sitting in front of you in that interview and he is answering your questions and being straight forward with you and he's showing all the characteristics and traits that it takes to make it, give him a try."

Elmore is one of thousands of inmates anticipating the transition back to society. It's the reason why The Department of Corrections Secretary Kenneth Tucker is paying a visit to Jacksonville to develop a shared strategy for success.

"In our field in the re-entry world and working with corrections, he's the top chief in the state of Florida working with the prisons," said Kevin Gay with Operation New Hope.

We caught up with Gay as he was helping prepare ex-offenders for the workforce through role playing.

He said far too often they have trouble finding housing and transportation to work.

They want to encourage small businesses to do their part.

"The largest hire in America is a small business owner, but typically in a tough economy they don't have the luxury of having an HR department," Gay said. "They may see someone they like, but they don't have the resources to do the background check."