Inside INdiana Business

Preparing women for life and careers after prison

This is Televerde's call center at Madison Correctional Facility. (photo courtesy: Televerde)

MADISON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An Arizona company that operates customer engagement centers at two Indiana women’s prisons has launched a program to help prepare their incarcerated workers for employment after they are released.

The sales and marketing firm Televerde created a nonprofit foundation to provide the imprisoned employees with workforce development programs and to create career pathways.

Televerde Foundation says it also wants to reduce the rates of women who are sent back to prison.

“Women who are formerly incarcerated have a 25% to 45% higher unemployment rate. The number one predictor for recidivism is joblessness,” said Michelle Cirocco, executive director of the foundation.

The Rockville Correctional Facility telemarketing center opened in March 2015. Last December, the company opened its second call center in the state at the Madison Correctional Facility for women.

Televerde says those centers provide business, project management, and customer service skills through on-the-job training. But the new re-entry program will provide personal and professional development tools to help soon-to-be-released workers prepare for a job search, such as community reintegration, workplace readiness, resume writing, and interviewing skills.

“We just really want to make sure that in addition to skills they learned while they were working for us, we also provide the additional education resources, training support necessary to be able to join the global workforce,” said Cirocco. “That means they can walk into any company, sit down in a cubicle next to anybody, and be prepared to be successful in that particular job.”

Cirocco says the six-month-long program is intended for women who are in the final year of their sentence. The initiative started in April at the Arizona prisons where Televerde operates customer centers.

The Indiana program will start in September. She said the classes will likely be taught virtually for both Indiana institutions. Cirocco says the students in the cohort will be released shortly thereafter.

With the COVID-inflicted unemployment rate hovering near 14% nationally and nearly 17% in Indiana, Cirocco says those numbers will not help these women already facing the stigma of a criminal record.

“In the best of times, being released from prison presents challenges associated with housing, transportation and employment,” explained Cirocco. “When you think of the current situation, we have to prepare them to be able to successfully transition or they really just don’t have a chance.”

Televerde says it does not have enough capacity to hire every woman who works for them in the prisons after they released. That is another reason why the company says it will continue to provide services to its graduates after they are released, providing ongoing career development services that could lead to career advancement.

“By adding the additional education and training and development after they’re released, they can pursue real careers, which will not only keep them out of prison, but it will enable them to provide more for their families and more for their children so that their children can go to college and have careers themselves.”

Televerde Foundation Executive Director Michelle Cirocco tells Inside INdiana Business the women are getting a second chance in life.