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April 15, 2014

County hears presentation on employment opportunities

NORMAN — The Cleveland County Board of Commissioners listened to a presentation Monday to consider partnering with a nonprofit that provides employment opportunities for prison inmates re-entering the community.

Patrick Viklund, Center for Employment Opportunities metro area director, said they partnered with the city of Moore in August, with participants aiding in tornado recovery efforts.

Two of the workers removed debris, weed eated, mowed, cleaned out ditches and cut down trees and limbs over the winter to make sure roadways were safe, Viklund said. The third worker is with Habitat for Humanity rebuilding homes that were affected by the tornado.

“We provide them comprehensive employment services,” he said. “While they’re doing that, we actually help them find full-time employment.”

The participants are employed through the nonprofit to do various jobs in the public works departments, such as streets, parks, groundskeeping and beautification.

“We would love to partner with Cleveland County, if possible,” Viklund said.

The cost of one worker is $175,000 per year, which includes the wage of the participant, salary of a full-time supervisor, workers’ comp and liability. The organization provides a monthly invoice to their partner providing the amount of hours worked and tasks that were completed to be reimbursed.

Viklund said usually they are able to subsidize 30 to 40 percent of that cost through fundraising, grants or other types of funding.

With Oklahoma topping the nation’s charts in incarceration, often being No. 1 in the country for women’s incarceration and usually in the top 3 to 5 for men’s incarceration, partnering with Oklahoma communities was a natural fit, he said.

A big benefit for the organization is that the participants are on probation or parole. They may have a GPS monitoring system, and if any problems arise or they lose track of someone, the organization can reach out to the probation or parole officer and let them know what’s going on, Viklund said.

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