Prince George’s Re-Entry Forum Connects Citizens to Freedom, Prosperity

Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation Workforce Services Division Director Walter Simmons (fourth from left) and corporation President and CEO Jim Coleman (second from right) stand with panelists at the EDC Community Re-Entry and Employment pane discussion on March 10. (Courtesy of PGCEDC)

The Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with the county’s Workforce Development Board, recently kicked off “Re-Entry Month” by hosting a discussion panel on community re-entry and employment.

More than 100 stakeholders gathered March 10 for an open dialogue about the barriers returning citizens encounter when coming back to the community.

The panel discussion included representatives from the office of County Executive Rushern Baker, the local law enforcement community, county departments of Corrections and Social Services, Maryland Legal Aid and others who provide resource assistance to returning citizens.

“We have angels among us removing employment barriers for over 1,800 county residents each year who are seeking to re-enter our workforce and secure good, high wage jobs,” said EDC President and CEO Jim Coleman. “The wonderful work that the Workforce Services Division and its board are doing to help our residents secure the necessary training to get good jobs is not just a slogan, we are serious about this mission.”

One such angel is Pete Goodson, the EDC’s Workforce Services Re-Entry coordinator who has helped more than 10,000 returning citizens find the pathway to success over the past 15 years.

Panelist Felicia Douglas served as one of Goodson’s success stories.

“When I returned from my incarceration, my main barrier to success was fear and not knowing where to find the services I needed to reclaim my life,” Douglas said. “I needed mentors like Pete Goodson at the One Stop Center to remind me that although my housing had been taken away, my job position had been taken away and I had been disassociated from people, that was in my past.

“Connecting to mentors helps build your confidence,” she said. “You still have your skills and there are services in the community that can help you return to your life, but you must fight your fear and have faith. Faith will truly free you.”

The panel engaged in a discussion on how the county can work to ensure that its returning citizens have the opportunity and preparation needed to succeed.

Hot topics included access to resources that have a proven track record of providing desired results and outcomes.

Panelist Linda Turner, who manages Baker’s Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative, shared her enthusiasm for working with a diverse group of re-entry professionals and stakeholders.

“Returning citizens are a high priority in County Executive Baker’s TNI initiative,” Turner said. “We have found that career training and sustainable employment are critical in the success of decreasing crime in the county. I’m looking forward to working with my fellow panelists to continue to transform lives.”

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