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PK USA hiring program aimed to help felons gain employment
By B.J. Fairchild-Newman - Shelbyville News
PK USA on North Michigan Road is expanding its hiring outreach to include convicted felons.
In a unique partnership with the Shelby County Probation Department, PK plans to hire local residents with criminal records. The program will help PK find temporary workers while offering a chance for employment to those serving probation.
The company already has encouraged the hiring of minorities and those in the community with physical and mental disabilities, and the automotive parts manufacturer believes that reaching out a hand to help felons on probation change their lives is an important contribution to the community.
Bill Kent, vice president of human resources and corporate relations at PK USA, said that employees at the Shelbyville plant have been overwhelmingly supportive of the decision to hire workers who are on probation.
"I even had one employee come up and shake my hand; he said he was proud of what PK was doing," Kent said. "I have no intention of compromising the security and safety of my employees."
According to Terri Bodine, chief probation officer for the Shelby County Probation Department, many companies in Shelbyville refuse to consider applicants for employment who have a felony on their record.
"We plan to recommend people to PK that we believe have a good chance of success," Bodine said. "We aren't going to send over any career criminals. We want this to work so that other companies might also work with us to find jobs for people on probation."
Shelby Superior Court No. 1 Judge Jack Tandy agreed with Bodine and said that he was "very excited about the program."
"PK is going out on a limb (to hire the workers who are on probation), and we hope that it works out for them. If it is successful, I hope that other employers in town will look at a similar program."
Bodine said that she is unlikely to recommend people with drug or alcohol problems, because she knows that showing up to work on a regular basis can be a challenge for them.
"I am going to send people on probation who are capable of holding a job; people who have a car and can read and write," Bodine said.
Bodine said that the term "felony" covers a wide range of crimes. A Class D felony could include theft or driving under the influence, while a Class A felony could include a murder conviction. However, even a Class A felon might be recommended for the program, depending on the circumstances of the crime, the person's age and when it was committed.
"We will look at people on a case-by-case basis," Bodine said.
Kent concurred with Bodine, saying that he firmly believes that everyone deserves a second chance.
"If people pay their debt to society," Kent said, "then it is not fair to prevent them from earning a living. People on probation seem to be one group that it is totally legal to discriminate against. All of us have made mistakes; none of us have the right to throw stones."
In addition to a humanitarian motive, hiring workers on probation also is a way for PK to fill temporary openings in its fluctuating workforce. Kent said that that the automotive-parts business needs workers for certain busy times of high-customer demand but does not necessarily want to hire these workers as permanent, full-time employees.
"This helps PK and the workers at the same time," Kent said. "And when full-time openings come up, these people can be considered."
Bodine, Tandy and Kent all agreed that convicted felons on probation who have "gainful employment" are less likely to commit another crime. Someone who has made a mistake and cannot seem to find a legitimate means to re-enter society will have to find some way to live.
"I think it could lead to a lack of hope," Bodine said.
PK is not encouraging residents on probation to apply directly at its plant; Kent is expecting the probation department to make the referrals. Anyone interested in participating in the program should contact Bodine or individual probation officers.
Kent stated that the statistics on Shelby County probation numbers are sobering. He said that 1,000 adults and 400 young people under 18 are currently on probation in the county. He quoted a saying by Abraham Lincoln that helped sum up the PK executive's thinking on giving a chance for a job to someone on probation.
"Lincoln said that, 'When you extinguish hope, you create desperation.'"
Copyright 2019 PKUSA Inc.