53206 Cast: The Reentry Simulation
53206, located in the inner city of Milwaukee, is the poorest zip code in the state of Wisconsin. 99.2% of residents are non-white and the median household income is $24,000. Podcast hosts Meg and Alex Bruzan cover thoughts on education, social justice, and the normalization of inequities they see on a daily basis.
In this episode, Meg and Alex welcome back Jamie De Jesus to talk with Wylbur Holloway from Employ Milwaukee about the upcoming reentry simulation event. The group speaks about the importance of the event and gives some context around why someone might want to participate in a reentry simulation.
Changing the Narrative: The Benefits of Reentry Employment Services
This episode features a conversation with Christopher Polk, a returning guest who found meaningful employment as a formerly justice-involved individual, as well as Wylbur Holloway, Manager of Reentry Services for Employ Milwaukee. Christopher reveals the experiences that have molded him into the person that he is today and the importance of having someone to turn to when navigating tough times. Discover the prejudice and scrutiny that justice-involved individuals often face when searching for jobs and why employers need to give job applicants the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to change and make better decisions.
The desire for gainful employment transcends race, color, gender, creed, and circumstance. This is especially true for returning citizens who are looking to get re-acclimated into the community and its social fabric.
Charles Dickerson is just one example of a justice-involved individual longing for societal reintegration and Employ Milwaukee's Reentry Service team was there to assist. Shortly after his release from prison, after having served 23 consecutive years, Charles was looking for employment. As he was walking from his temporary living quarters to Walgreens on W. North Avenue and N. 27th Street he noticed a sign that read, Employ Milwaukee, and he thought he had hit the jackpot and his desires for gainful employment would be acheived.
Upon entering Employ Milwaukee, Charles met with agency Reentry Services Manager Wylbur Holloway and Reentry Sector Specialist Frederick Nelson, along with Employ Milwaukee partner Wisconsin Community Services (WCS) Job Account Rep/ Job Developer Leslye Love, to find out what opportunities would be available. So much had changed since Charles was first incarcerated back in 1999; the emergence of iPhone and other smartphones, extreme advances in computer technology power and capabilities, along with a changed built environment and landscape in many neighborhoods.
The Employ Milwaukee Reentry Services team, coupled with Ms. Love, worked with Charles to draft and shore up his resume, provide digital literacy assistance and connect him with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and other employer partners to explore training and employment opportunities. Charles is grateful for Employ Milwaukee and the agency's efforts to help him secure employment with a local manufacturing company. He stated, "At Employ Milwaukee the people understand you on all levels of life. They don't judge you, they help you to finish."
When asked what words of advice he'd give to other formerly incarcerated individuals looking to reestablish themselves in society having reflected on those who have helped him along his journey both while locked up and since he's been free, Charles stated, "Trust in yourself and trust in people. There is help out there and there are still people out there who are willing to help you regardless of what you've done."
Chris Polk has spent most of his life in and out of the justice system since catching his first case at 17 years old. While serving time in 2018, Chris got involved with the SMART Reentry program. The SMART Reentry program was created to assess and identify individuals that are considered to be high-risk of reoffending, and connect them to workforce/employment opportunities. After realizing all the opportunities available to him, Chris reached out to Employ Milwaukee about obtaining a Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF) certification, so that he could find work as soon as possible upon his release. Chris put in a commendable effort to obtain his certification and was amicably connected to an employer within the same month he was released.
Since then, Chris carries himself as a model representation of how great of an impact Reentry programing has on our community’s returning citizens. Employ Milwaukee loves to share stories, like Chris’, that shed light on the positive things happening in our community! Employ Milwaukee does not believe in turning its back on anyone. We embrace our community’s reentry population and are excited to lend our support.
If you want to hear more of Chris's story, you can listen to his interview on our podcast, Workforce Insights!