Florence County pilot program provides second chance for those recently released from prison

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 6:44 PM EDT
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FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - A new workforce opportunity is helping to give people recently released from prison the fresh start they need.

Lewis Tree Service came up with the idea to start ‘The Energy Industry Second Chance Pilot Program.’

The initiative is a partnership with many organizations invested in providing new beginnings to those who’ve been incarcerated, including The S.C. Department of Corrections, DESA and the REEMERGE program.

The pilot began in February with four people who joined the program and began training two weeks prior to their release.

They trained with Lewis Tree Service at the Wateree River Correctional Institution.

Those participants learned the ins and outs of utility vegetation management-which means they’re helping to keep your power on.

They then continued training for entry-level jobs in Florence after their release in March.

Tuesday morning was graduation day from that training.

They’re now eligible for full-time employment with Lewis Tree Service across the Carolinas.

One of those people is Joey Hunt.

He says this type of program is giving him what he needs-an open door leading to a job opportunity.

“Being a convicted felon kind of puts you in a [position] where you don’t have job opportunities or housing opportunities,” Hunt said. “Society just looks at us a different way. But we’re not bound by our past; this is a step to move forward that pushes all that away.”

“All they’re looking for is a chance,” said Jake Gadsden, Deputy Director of Programs, Reentry and Rehabilitative Services for the SCDC. “Second chance employers are looking for workers. We have workers who are looking for jobs. I think it’s a perfect fit. We just need to understand every human being has and makes a mistake. We all would like a second chance.”

Business leaders who attended the graduation said the second chance program can also help to fill a business’s need for staffing shortages.

The Duke Energy Foundation supplied nearly $27,000 in grant funds to support the participants with many of their training needs.

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