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Life after prison: Transitional programs for women in Gatesville, Texas

Posted at 9:40 AM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 14:25:36-05

GATESVILLE, Texas — Hundreds of incarcerated women had the opportunity to connect with future employers Wednesday at the Hilltop Unit in Gatesville.

The career expo was created by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to set inmates up for the civilian world after they leave the prison system.

Two women in the program spoke out and one of those women was Lana O'Connell, who plans to pursue a career in electric engineering.

“I’ve been here five and a half years, I’m on a ten-year sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon,” O'Connell said.

14 different employers from across the state of Texas came to the job fair to give inmates the opportunity to connect with them in hopes of landing a job after their time is served.

Mr. Billy Hirsch, Division Director of Manufacturing, Agribusiness was one of those business owners present at the career expo,

“They come in and get those on-the-job certifications, but they also get the work, they can get apprenticeships, so when they get into the real world, they got their education and experience as well.”

Tandelyn Voigt, a 50-year-old from San Antonio who was arrested back in 2020 shared, “When you’re in it, you have a choice to either, continue your old ways or make the best of the situation... I feel like the amount of time, I’ve been here getting two certifications in two different fields, is making the best of my situation.”

Studies from the prison policy organization found, at least 1 in 4 people who go to jail in a given year will return to jail over the course of a year.

This is why career expos and education from within the prison cell matter to inmates for when they enter the civilian world.