TDOC program gives probationers a second chance and a step into the labor force

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Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 19:21:43-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Companies are still struggling to find workers as we navigate the pandemic. However, one partnership is filling a void and providing second chances.

The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) is seeing more companies than ever willing to participate in its Workforce Development Program.

It's a way for companies to fill positions and an opportunity for probationers to fulfill a requirement, develop skills and step into the labor force.

Deneika Carpenter was a convicted felon on probation and in need of a job in order to stay compliant. Metro by T-Mobile gave her shot, and years later, she's now an assistant manager – and she's completed her sentence.

“I’m probably the only person who got off probation and cried – I called them, crying,” said Carpenter.

Director Niresha Atkins once served as Deneika's probation officer and now is a Probation and Parole District Director for the Tennessee Department of Correction. While employment is just one stipulation of probation, she says it's a critical one.

Deneika is not the only one having success. Of the almost 4,000 probationers in Davidson County, 98% are employed and that’s also helping to turn around a labor shortage. It's a win-win as we all rebound for both companies and people alike.

This isn't the only program the department uses to help offenders find employment while behind bars.

TDOC just partnered with Tennessee Composites to offer jobs to inmates at the Turney Center Industrial Complex. The work release program started a few weeks ago and allows approved inmates to leave the facility to work in a community-based job. Officials hope to expand the program soon.