12 On Your Side: Convicted murderer comments on hiring ex-offenders

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Plans to hire ex-offenders for prison jobs isn't sitting well with some prison employees. And while those employees are not talking on camera, a newly-released convicted murderer is.

Doyle Tunnell was incarcerated three decades for murder. Living free outside prison walls, just three short months, the ex-offender said he would gladly return to prison to work next to correctional officers.

Doyle can't just shake off 31 years of prison head counts and monitoring. He's still adjusting to free movement. Doyle went in a 17-year-old and came out a 48-year-old man when he was released June 4.

"Made a stupid mistake, went to rob, situation got out of control. Unfortunately, the person lost their life," he said.

He gets a second chance because Grace Washington Young, of "J&G Consulting", accepted him into her prisoner re-entry program. Doyle washes dishes at "Mama J's," where the restaurant owner, a philanthropist known for great food and generosity, hired him.

"He's been a blessing to Mama J. He's added to the family. Yes he did. He's a good guy. A real good guy," said Mama J, owner of Mama J's kitchen.

Right now, Virginia D.O.C. is crafting guidelines for hiring ex-offenders to work in prisons. Many have good vocational training and, given the chance, could make a seamless transition from former prisoner to employee.

"We just want to make sure that once an inmate has completed his or her sentence and they are no longer confined, that they have opportunity just like any other citizen to obtain employment," said Harold Clarke, Director of Virginia D.O.C.

Doyle, just released, said he'd have no problem going back behind bars to earn income as a contributing member of society.

"Most definitely. I would be one of the guys that will go back to the institution and work. I could maybe help other people that have been in prison a while," Doyle said. "The young generation, maybe help them. There's more than crime out there. There's a better life than that."

D.O.C. policy will determine whether a former inmate is redeemed for employment and where to place them. 12,000 Virginia inmates are released every year. High unemployment is a key reason they come back.

"A lot of people want to have a chance and they are willing to work hard if people just give them a chance. Everybody deserves a second chance," he added.

There are corrections employees who don't trust former inmates and have a problem working with them. D.O.C. Director Harold Clarke said he hasn't heard any complaints. Clarke said he's just making sure a policy is in place, to help the department make the best possible decisions.

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