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Hiring Hoosiers: TOWER program prepares inmates for post-incarceration success

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Posted at 8:40 AM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-29 09:23:28-05

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HAMILTON COUNTY — A criminal record can impact someone's ability to find a job, which can affect the recidivism rate.

Inside the Hamilton County jail, inmates are learning job skills to do just that, with help from the local business community.

"Seeing kids that I went to school with, they have careers, jobs now, they have families, and I'm just sitting in jail," 22-year-old Max Remley said.

He admitted he didn't make the best decisions, but when speaking to him days before his release, he was adamant about turning his life around.

"This time, I really think that I'm ready," Remley said. "I've done my time and my duty to get out and do good for me, my family, and my community."

His new attitude is thanks in part to the TOWER program inside the Hamilton County jail.

TOWER stands for Transitioning Opportunities for Work, Education, and Reality.

It works with inmates to plan their successful re-entry into society, with one primary focus being employment.

During our visit, a representative from Hittle Landscaping explained why they offer ex-offenders jobs.

"Statistics show you are less likely to recidivate if you maintain employment," Kelly Gunn, project manager for the TOWER Mentoring program, said. "I think it's 60 days after you've been incarcerated so that 60-day period after you're released if you can continue to maintain your employment, you're less likely to recidivate."

Gunn, alongside Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush, has relied on support from the local business community to give men and women a second chance that sticks.

"It's really hard to find people in this economy to do a job and really come to work every day and do a good service," Quakenbush said. "We saw that need, and this is really trying to fill that gap."

It's something Remley has been working hard to do.

"We've just been sitting down filling out resumes, [and] cover letters. She's been teaching me how to do job applications and a bunch of stuff, so when I get out in the real world, like interview skills, stuff like that, so when I get out in the world, I can use those to my advantage," says Remley.

Gunn served 50 inmates in the TOWER program in 2019, and she hopes the next time they return here, it's a full-circle moment.

"I always tell my mentees; I hope one day you're back in this building mentoring somebody like you were in this building."

Quakenbush says the ultimate goal is to put the jail out of business, making a better future and safer community for everyone.

The TOWER program is always looking for more mentors and businesses in Hamilton, Marion, Boone, and Madison counties that are willing to hire men and women who have completed the program.

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To learn more about the TOWER program, contact the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office at 317-773-1872.

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