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INDIANAPOLIS--When Jim Cotterill and his wife started the Indianapolis-based nonprofit UNITE INDY four years ago, they wanted to help people in poverty find jobs. Recently, they expanded their mission to help inmates trying to find work when they are released.

Cotterill, president and chief unity officer of UNITE INDY, says an estimated 12,000 people in Marion County are released each year after serving time.

UNITE INDY partnered with Butler University’s Lacy School of Business to study challenges ex-offenders deal with when trying to find work after getting released. The report showed some unexpected insight, said Cotterill.

“It’s kind of counterintuitive,” said Cotterill in an interview with Inside Indiana Business. “The study showed us exactly the opposite. The more serious the offense, a felony versus a misdemeanor, the better performers the workers are.”

They have created a website called, which helps connect former inmates with area employers willing to give them a second chance.

“We went out to recruit employers who are willing to officer a second chance. About 10 or 12 signed up right away and with word of mouth, it’s grown. It’s more than doubled. It’s about 25 now,” said Cotterill.

The website provides links to resources like resume writing and helps them learn job interviewing skills.

“We go back to the basics and let people know that they were designed to work. They’re made to work. There’s dignity in work. Work is a good thing.”