LEON COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — Local businesses and the Leon County Sheriff's Office are partnering to reduce crime. A second chance is a key component of that partnership.
Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil said many times unemployment and repeat offenders are directly related.
"Taking that complex problem out of their life, we can in fact create a situation where they can be gainfully employed. I can tell you most people don't want to be in a life of crime if they have a way of taking care of themselves and their families," said Sheriff McNeil.
Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil's "Rise in Pathways - All In Initiative" is helping inmates find jobs before they're released. 30 businesses including restaurants, landscaping, and auto repair shops are now working with the sheriff on that initiative. Many gathered Thursday afternoon to pledge a commitment to the program.
"If you have a program that is re-entry focused, then you can reduce our crime rate significantly," said Sheriff McNeil.
As an inmate prepares for release, LCSO will work with them on job placement. If an inmate has a certain skill set, they'll see if there's a job available. Chop Barbershop Eastside is one of the participating businesses.
"If they already their barbering license and they've been doing barbering or even cosmetology, it's something they can easily jump back into. It's a skillset they can easily pick back up. Even if they're a little rusty, it comes back quickly," said Chop Barbershop Eastside Owner Julie Todd.
Todd said one of her clients works for LCSO. When he told her about the initiative, she said she immediately felt drawn to join.
"We love to be a part of the solution if at all possible so this is actually a gift in our opinion," said Todd.
Second Harvest of the Big Bend was the first group to sign on to help. Kareema Thomas with Second Harvest spoke at Thursday's pledge ceremony about the impact she's seen from the former inmates they hired through the program.
"I'm sure many of us either have directly or indirectly known someone who was incarcerated and looking for a second chance. That's what we're all about; second chances," said Thomas.
Sheriff McNeil said his goal is to double the number of partnering businesses by August.