Des Moines Will Host Job Fair For Formerly Incarcerated Workers

By Amie Rivers

February 14, 2023

A job fair specifically for people who were formerly serving time in jail or prison is happening this week in central Iowa.

The Reform Iowa Job Fair will be from 1-7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.

It is the first such job fair the group has put on in Iowa specifically for these folks, who Reform Iowa organizer Kam Middlebrooks calls “justice-impacted individuals.” Only two others have happened in the US, both in larger cities on the East Coast.

“We truly believe economic mobility is the way to relieve recidivism,” Middlebrooks said.

The only problem? “We need employers to feel comfortable with hiring people with criminal records,” Middlebrooks said.

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So Middlebrooks touts the benefits of hiring those who are justice-impacted: Formerly incarcerated folks spent their time more often than not gaining skills, like getting their GED, taking college classes, or earning apprenticeship certificates, he said. And they’re highly motivated to get and keep jobs in order to fulfill the terms of their probation or parole.

That’s not only according to Reform Alliance, but Iowa itself, which offers federal bonding and tax credits under its Returning Citizen Initiative.

“These workers are some of the most dedicated and productive employees,” Iowa Workforce Development says on its site. “They are overwhelmingly dependable and punctual and the turnover rate is typically low.”

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Several big employers already agree, like HyVee, Amazon, and UPS, all of which will be at the fair.

The job fair is free and open to all, but especially hopes to bring in those with criminal backgrounds. Besides employers eager to hire such folks, the job fair will offer free professional attire, barbers and makeup artists, resume building and help to expunge old criminal records.

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Other organizations like the Evelyn K. Davis Center also do this type of work, and Reform Iowa is partnering with those existing programs in order to better solve the hiring issue.

“We know employment opportunities are one of the greatest factors ensuring strong communities and safe families,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s important to create those pathways and support them in their journey.”


by Amie Rivers

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  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.

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