Doug Vanzant is energized, positive and smiling while sitting at his desk at Clackamas County’s Workforce Programs office where he is employed as a Workforce Specialist. Doug’s job is to prepare and assist those who struggle with employment due to choices in their pasts that involved breaking the law—he gets people on the right track and helps them find gainful employment.
“One in every five families in the U.S. has at least one family member that is involved with the criminal justice system,” said Vanzant, who has helped break down barriers for ex-felons over a nearly 20-year period by using his own personal experience as well as evidence-based motivational practices. “If I’m helping people change their lives and get jobs, then I’m helping the community stay safe.”
Vanzant explained that successful employment and being valued for positive contributions can change a person’s outlook and reduces recidivism (i.e., re-offending or relapsing into criminal behavior).
“Sometimes a person will fall down multiple times before they succeed in making changes that stick,” Vanzant said. “If I see someone is trying to make an effort, I will lead by example and never give up on them. My priority is to my client.”
Vanzant talked about his life after being incarcerated himself, the days following his release from prison when he was able to turn his life experiences into a future of leading by positive example and helping others.
He said he’s always been full of energy, and enjoys being involved with community activities and assisting people. Despite his incarceration, as well as overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame and remorse, he earned a reputation of helping others and made a plan.
“People can change,” said Vanzant whose plan included sharing his personal experiences of incarceration and transformation to help people.
He was quickly noticed for assisting others after their time in jail or prison. He then worked for the non-profit Bridges to Change where he became the Program Director taking the organization from two to 60 employees. Bridges to Change operates a transitional services program in Clackamas County. Vanzant has worked on behalf of the Clackamas County Workforce Program for the last 5 years.
“I love my job and I can’t wait to get to work each day,” said Vanzant whose greatest reward is seeing someone get a job and become successful. “I like to see people walk in determined to change their lives and I help them become successful—give people every chance to succeed.”
“Clackamas County Community Corrections is on the cutting edge—they want to help people succeed, reduce recidivism and make our community safer,” said Vanzant, who now has former clients paying it forward by working in positions where they are able to hire his current clients.
“Don’t give up on people,” he said.
To hear more about Doug Vanzant’s personal story and his mission to help others succeed after incarceration, listen to the live stream of the Felony Inc Podcast where he will be an in-studio guest interviewed by Dave Dahl, founder of Dave’s Killer Bread, on September 13 at 10 a.m. on startupradionetwork.com.