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Wash. Governor Wants To Eliminate Barriers To Employment For Former Prisoners

Paula Wissel
Former inmate Jordan Rosario shakes hands with Wa. Governor Jay Inslee after he signs prisoner reentry Executive Order on April 26, 2016.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated the crimes Ms. Rosario was in prison for.  

Across the country, there’s a push to make it easier for people getting out of prison to find employment. In Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee has signed an executive order directing state agencies to work to eliminate barriers felons in the state face looking for a job after being incarcerated. A Washington state lawwill take effect June 9 that will bring down barriers for felons applying for many state professional and business licenses. Governor Inslee also wants to eliminate barriers to apprenticeship programs. 

“We don’t want a revolving door out of our prisons of people going out and coming back in. We want a door to employment so that they get jobs and become productive citizens,” Inslee said.

Among other things, Inslee has directed the Department of Licensing to issue state identification cards to prisoners upon their release. In the past, ex-prisoners only had their Corrections Department ID card for identification.

After signing Executive Order 16-05 at Fare Startin Seattle, Governor Jay Inslee shook hands with Jordan Rosario. Rosario was released from prison five months ago, after six years behind bars for burglary and drugs.

She says, she lives with the label “convicted felon.”  

“And carrying that stigma is a very isolating feeling, not only is it discouraging, it hurts on a human level,” Rosario said.

Rosario is now working full time at the Olive Garden. She credits mentoring and reentry programs, including the If Project, based in Seattle, for her success.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.