A program in the city of Roanoke is doing so well that it is catching attention from other agencies in our area.
Total Action for Progress' Virginia Cares program has been very successful in making sure ex-offenders get jobs in the Roanoke Valley. The numbers are so good that Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton came into town to take notes on how to better the program in his area.
WDBJ 7 met Richard Atkins Wednesday afternoon. After 10 years in the Virginia Department of Corrections, Atkins was looking for a second chance.
"I figured I'd come out here on my own and get plugged into jobs, but I was unsuccessful," said Atkins.
Atkins, like many others, turned to TAP's Virginia Cares program to find a job.
"They got connections and they are a good reference for you,” he said.
Last year, the program found employment for more than 200 people.
So far this year, they've helped more than 60.
The success rate prompted Roanoke City Police Chief Chris Perkins to tell these men and women to keep up the good work.
"It's all about communicating and relationships,” said Perkins. “And if they communicate the success they've had and the relationships they've built then hopefully that will come contagious."
It seems like the success has spread beyond city limits.
Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton made a surprise appearance at TAP’s main headquarters in downtown Roanoke to learn what he could do differently to help his inmates get back on their feet.
"Sometimes I'm really taken back to see the faces that come through the door,” he said. “18, 24 months after they are released and it’s sometimes a vicious cycle that they can't break."
Overton said inmate reentry programs are nothing new, but he's looking for new ways to get more people employed in Franklin County.
"They just got their backs against the walls in many instances and that's where I'm trying to build that bridge and be a partner in the community from the fact when they are released getting the right contacts so they can be successful,” said Overton.
Given the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Chief Perkins thought Wednesday was a good time to meet with ex-offenders in the program to emphasize how important it is to create relationships between the community and law enforcement.
Chief Perkins said a big part of the program depends on employers. He said he's been trying to personally thank businesses. He also encourages them to hire people from the program.