Tulsa Employers Relying On Avalon Center 'Left In Dark' About Closing

Thursday, January 16th 2014, 6:49 pm
By: News On 6

Employers who rely on the Avalon Center say the department of corrections has left them in the dark.

The Avalon Center is a halfway house where more than 200 inmates stay the night at the end of their sentence.

1/15/14 Related Story: Department Of Corrections: All Offenders To Leave Tulsa's Avalon Center

Around a hundred of the inmates have jobs outside the facility but by the end of next week those inmates may lose their jobs and dozens of employers will be left scrambling.

Bearwood Concepts is where a department store begins before it gets to your local shopping mall.

"All of the interiors of a retail store, we would build the inside of the store," said Ken Hird, vice-president of Bearwood Concepts.

Nine of the company's employees are inmates at Avalon Center. An unnamed inmate said he was sent to Avalon after getting a DUI for the second time. He's five days from the end of his sentence and said he loves working at Bearwood Concepts.

The company's vice-president says the arrangement to hire Avalon inmates has worked out very well.

"They are very motivated to do well while they're here and it's been a very good program for us," Hird said.

The Department of Corrections sent Avalon a letter Tuesday saying it's ending the contract and moving out the 200-plus inmates.

The state cited "safety and security concerns," as the main reason for the shutdown. Former inmates also claimed guards were staging fights. A video was provided to attorneys who claim it proves the concerns.

Watch the video above.

Hird said the Department of Corrections told him the inmates could be gone as early as next Tuesday.

The president of Avalon sent a statement saying approximately 100 inmates have regular jobs outside the facility, adding, "These jobs are absolutely essential to their successful rehabilitation and reintegration. Gainful employment for an ex-offender is the number one indicator of whether or not that offender will recidivate."

If the inmates leave, Hird said his business and all of the others who hire Avalon inmates will lose employees and the inmates will lose stability.

"I feel bad for them as individuals, they are paying their debt to society, they're at the tail end of their sentences. The ones that we've had, they've been very good, they've been very prompt," said Hird.

Late Thursday afternoon the Department of Corrections told Hird that six of his nine employees who stay at Avalon will be transferred to other facilities in the Tulsa area, which means they will be able to keep their jobs.