TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — When Rodney Fisher was 22 years old, he was given a 52-year sentence for purse snatching. He was finally released in 2020 after maintaining his innocence for 34 years.
“Long story short,” he explained, “I was given a second chance by the governor we have in office and released almost two years ago. Upon release, I was put in contact with CEO. And they’re a wonderful program.”
The Center for Employment Opportunities, or CEO, is a nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated individuals find jobs. Their Tulsa office got Rodney doing road maintenance with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Then Dane Worthington, CEO’s director of mobility programs, got him into their newest pilot program.
“Then we connected him to a local trucking school and some tuition assistance,” Worthington said, “and he is now working for a transportation company making $22.50 an hour.”
Becoming a trucker is a very expensive process. Drivers not only have to pay for school to get their commercial driver’s license, but the classes (which require full-time enrollment) take up to two months to complete.
The Center for Employment Opportunities is offering to pay the full tuition for former felons, as well as a weekly stipend so they can miss work. Four Tulsans, including Rodney, have already completed the program.
“You can consider an all-in cost, of just fees and paying things, of $6,500,” Worthington explained. “Which some people may look at and be like, ‘wow, that’s a lot of money to spend on one person.’ But if you can connect them to a great career that they’ll keep for the rest of their life, I think it’s a relatively small cost.”
Rodney told NewsChannel 8 that there are plenty of benefits to hiring former prisoners like himself.
“You appreciate the company giving you that opportunity,” he said. “And so you wanna do a good job, y’know. You want to show that you’re worthy of that chance.”
“I think individuals coming home, y’know, they know the statistics,” Worthington added. “They know the deck is stacked against them.”
“There’s a lot of companies that will not give you a chance, y’know, because they see that you’ve had run-ins with the law,” Rodney clarified. “And that puts up a barrier right there.”
It’s charitable to help former prisoners find employment, especially in a career that pays between $40,000 and $80,000 per year. But it also helps address and alleviate the supply chain issues stemming from a lack of truck drivers.
“The American Trucking Association estimates that currently there’s a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers,” Worthington said.
Rodney has reduced that number by one. He currently drives a flatbed, hauling goods to neighboring states, but he eventually wants to switch to long-haul trucking. Now that he has his freedom, he wants to use it by traveling as much as possible.
“I’m about to turn 59 in October,” he said. “It’s taken away many years of my life. But I’m here now, trying to do the best I can. I don’t know how many years I have left. But I just want to be able to enjoy it. Have a life.”