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Film aims to create new workforce paths for West Virginians returning from prison

By Fred Pace, HD Media

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Workforce and criminal justice leaders from across West Virginia will join forces next week for a screening of the documentary “Being Free,” from producers of the award-winning PBS series, “Roadtrip Nation.”

The film — which follows the journey of three formerly incarcerated people on the search for careers after prison — will be followed by an interactive panel discussion on Tuesday at The Capitol Theater in Charleston.

“High recidivism rates aren’t just an issue of social justice, they’re a fundamental barrier to economic mobility for so many in our state,” said Michael Aloi, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia. “By creating new paths to the workforce for West Virginians returning from incarceration, we have the opportunity to solve a critical challenge facing our communities and begin to create a culture of rehabilitation.”

Most incarcerated West Virginians deal with substance abuse disorder.

West Virginia is continuing to grapple with a persistent worker shortage, with just 54 workers for every 100 open jobs, according to U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

At the same time, the state’s incarceration rate outpaces the national average, and the journey home for formerly imprisoned West Virginians is particularly fraught, as 58% of people in state prison and 63% of people sentenced to local jail contend with substance abuse disorder, according to a report by Marshall University.

Faced with challenges maintaining sobriety, a lack of affordable housing and barriers to employment — both in terms of skills and access to opportunity — the state’s recidivism rate remains one of the highest in the nation at 29.3%.

Read more: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/business/film-aims-to-create-new-workforce-paths-for-west-virginians-returning-from-prison/article_6bfcd91f-1c08-5dd9-8674-dd5934bc8232.html

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