This partnership is helping drive down the recidivism rate in SC - and helping employers | Opinion

As leaders of cabinet agencies — the South Carolina Department of Corrections and the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce — we are pleased with our state’s ongoing development of pathways to successful rehabilitation, reintegration and reemployment of our formerly incarcerated individuals.

Thanks to our partnership known as the Second Chance program, returning citizens are being taught the skills to secure employment, make positive contributions to their communities and obtain financial autonomy. South Carolina leads the nation in providing intensive work readiness, soft skills and relevant career training to individuals who are still incarcerated. The partnerships between our agencies and others help make this possible.

Efforts like these are why South Carolina has reduced its recidivism rate by 44% in the past 15 years. Our three-year return-to-prison rate is the lowest in the nation at 17%, and all of this begins before an incarcerated individual is released.

William H. Floyd III
William H. Floyd III
Bryan P. Stirling
Bryan P. Stirling

Eligible incarcerated individuals participate in SCDC education and work programs that enhance their employability. Participants can obtain their GEDs and gain hands-on experience from SCDC’s industry-specific training offerings, including agriculture and manufacturing.

SCDEW begins meeting with participants in person and virtually as they near release. This helps them leverage their work program experience to become attractive job applicants and secure offers of employment. In addition to job skills, these programs also teach soft skills and interview skills, provide resume support, register them in the SC Works system to apply for jobs pending their release, and more.

SCDEW also provides structured mock interview sessions for prisoners statewide. These sessions are conducted by SCDEW team members and through a new collaboration with experienced Human Resources managers who are members of the Society for Human Resources Management, Columbia Chapter. For example, during a recent March session prisoners participated in more than 40 virtual mock interviews conducted by HR volunteers.

The support of Second Chance does not end upon release, either. At reentry, participants are connected with a case manager in their local SC Works center, who will prepare personal, individualized plans to connect individuals with the necessary services and resources. In addition to job search support, SC Works has a network of partner organizations that provide additional services to returning individuals, such as economic support and housing assistance.

This holistic approach to reentry enhances opportunities for Second Chance participants to go beyond the lives they once knew.

Second Chance hiring practices increase our state’s workforce, tax revenue and public safety while reducing recidivism and the amount of state tax dollars spent on housing the incarcerated.

These job seekers aren’t the only ones who benefit from Second Chance. Confronted by a tight labor market, employers can tap into this talent pool, plus benefit from Work Opportunity Tax Credit and Federal Bonding, two U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored programs that SCDEW administers. Each offers unique financial incentives to help reduce barriers to employment for specific target populations, including the formerly incarcerated.

We’re proud of the positive impact our cabinet agencies have helped facilitate through Second Chance, and we look forward to continuing this work for the betterment of South Carolina.

Whether you’re an employer or a recently released individual, a network of support and resources is available for Second Chance employment opportunities. Individuals can contact their local SC Works center to learn more about the available services that can benefit all South Carolinians, including those who have completed their incarceration.

Everyone deserves a second chance if they are willing to put in the work and time.

William H. Floyd III is Executive Director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. Bryan P. Stirling is Director of the S.C. Department of Corrections.