The Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has been recognized nationally for an online virtual job fair it conducted last year for incarcerated individuals.
DWD on March 6 received the prestigious William J. Harris Equal Opportunity Award at the National Association of State Workforce Agencies’ (NASWA) 2019 Winter Policy Forum in Washington, D.C.
NASWA honored DWD for partnering with the Indiana Department of Correction to host the online virtual job fair in August 2018 for 132 inmates at five correctional facilities across the state.
Plainfield, Rockville, Wabash, Westville and the Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton participated in the job fair, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
Six employers from throughout the state took part, including representatives from another state agency, the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The William J. Harris Equal Opportunity Award is bestowed upon a state demonstrating excellence and innovation in the area of equal opportunity. Mike Barnes, DWD’s chief workforce officer, accepted the honor at the NASWA awards banquet.

In Indiana, up to 20,000 ex-offenders are released from prison each year. Statistics show that those who remain unemployed for three years following release have a recidivism rate of up to 60 percent. The numbers go down dramatically for those who are able to secure employment and stay on the job.