The application process is guided by a zero-tolerance policy. Applicants must apply in person and present photo identification. Applicants are informed up front that the responsibility of successfully completing the program is theirs alone. Applicants are instructed to complete the application in its entirety and must be returned by the applicant in person with photo identification. This "tough love" approach ensures that the applicant realizes early on that the responsibility of this endeavor lies squarely on the individuals' shoulder.
The background check is conducted in two phases. Phase 1 entails an extensive review of the individual's police records by the Memphis Police Department. In Phase 2, the Legal Division interprets the individual's record for accuracy and verifies that the individual has only one felony conviction. The applicant may possess multiple counts on his/her record, but can not be on diversion (i.e. when an individual's record is cleared upon completion of his/her sentencing). The applicant also may have misdemeanors on their record.
The program places particular emphasis on one felony. This emphasis is undergirded by the difficulty faced in convincing potential employers to hire ex-felons. In general, people are more willing to give individuals a second chance. To the contrary, it is very difficult for people to provide opportunities to multiple offenders. Hence, for the success of the program, the background check verifies that the individual meets the program requirements (i.e. an individual can only have one felony conviction and must reside in Shelby County).
Upon completion of the application and background check, the Workforce development Specialist (WDS) creates and maintains a running record for the applicant. The running record includes a copy of all correspondence with the participant (e.g. documentation of appointments with program staff, scheduled interviews with employers, updates contact information, etc.). The WDS conduct the initial interviews of the applicants. Further, the WDS become case managers for the applicants who successfully matriculate through the program. During the profile analysis, the WDS identify barriers and observe strengths and weaknesses of the applicant. Observed weaknesses may encompass a wide range of behaviors or dispositions (e.g. argumentative, lack of eye contact during interview, not processing a driver's license, evidence of alcohol or substance abuse, etc.). Observed strengths may include previous work experience, good communication skills, training and certifications.
The panel interview is an objective, structured interview conducted by three practitioners. Prior to the interview session, each of the panelists are provided with an orientation on the participant's criminal charges, educational background and training certicifications, work history, the results from both background checks, picture identification, and a resume, if provided.
Applicants receive written correspondence of the results of the second interview. Consistent with the previous steps, the applicant has no appeal process. Questions during the interview include whether the applicant has adequate transportation, the applicant's skill set and needs, the applicant's educational level, an identification of the applicant's work experience or types of jobs held, placement needs, overall appearance, and communication skills. In addition, the panel will pose questions regarding the circumstance of the applicant's crime, probation status, skills obtained while incarcerated, and the applicant's occupational preferences. During the second interview, the applicant also is queried about his/her drug use. If the response is yes, the panel will strongly recommend the applicant seek professional assistance. This exhaustive assessment of the applicant is conducted primarily for the purposes of identifying mentoring and professional development needs. During the interview, the Executive Director identifies the skills and needs of each applicant and matches the identified needs with available job opportunities provided through the program's partner consortium.
On site drug screening is provided to each applicant. If the participant fails the drug screening, the participant is disqualified from participating in the program. The participant, however, can reapply one year from the drug screening results.
Applicants who satisfy the requisites of the second chance interview are invited to participate in the orientation. The orientation includes a full agenda, which begins at 8:00 AM and concludes at 5:00 PM. The participants are not paid for their participation. Attendance, however, is a mandatory program requirement.
A typical agenda includes:
Following the orientation, participants have an opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Memphis in small groups. The Mayor provides an overview and establishes a bond with the participant to complete the program. The bond is signified with a handshake.
During placement, the Executive Director along with the Second Chance staff consult with job partners on their needs, the minimum job qualifications needed for the jobs and the type of individual that would best meet the partner's expectations. This is an ongoing process as jobs are not always immediately available. After a series of interviews with the applicants and job partners, the Second Chance staff matches the applicants with a potential employer. Placements are based on job availability and the outcome of the interview. Each participant must meet the basic requirement for the job. If an applicant lacks one or more of the criterion, then the Second Chance staff arranges job training, vocational skills, GED preparation, etc.
Workforce Development Specialist closely monitors the progress of the participant on the job. Careful attention is given to not exploit the participants. Accordingly, Second Chance staff meets one-on-one with the job liaison to get feedback on the participant's performance. The zero-tolerance policy remains in full effect throughout the program. Hence, participants are randomly selected for drug screening.
Participants have the option to further their education and enhance job training through a network of agencies that have collaborated with the program. The Second Chance has a successful attrition rate, as most of its participants do not drop out of the program.
If disqualified from the program for reasons that violate the Second Chance agreement, participants are not allowed to re-apply; however, if a person should relocate and then return to the city without a subsequent conviction, he/she would be allowed to re-apply.
The Second Chance program can proudly boast of sponsoring 13 graduations (individuals who have received 12 months of service). Family, friends, community leaders, partners, staff and the Mayor attend the graduation ceremony.
Individuals from the graduating class provide testimonies about their challenges and how the program has helped them to overcome those challenges. In some instances, individuals share stories about their opportunities of advancement that they have earned at their respective companies. The graduation ceremony normally lasts one hour and is followed by a reception. Graduates receive a certificate of achievement and a photograph with the Mayor.
Some graduates utilize their certificates to pursue other employment opportunities. Many of them, however, remain on the initial jobs that they receive through program placement.