You think it’s hard to find a job in this economy, try having a record.
Lately I’ve been getting desperate emails from ex-prisoners, and family members of ex-prisoners, wanting help to find a job, any job.
my name is bernard and i am an ex-con desperately searching for employment. i live in fort myers fla. i got released from prison in 2001, never been in trouble before or since. the charge was aggravated battery i served 24 months. i have already reinstated my voting rights i have a class b commercial with driving license with 0 points. also an honorable discharge from the military. is there a job site that is willing to give second chances.
I know, many of you are thinking: “who the heck cares about an ex-con? They chose to screw up and landed in jail.”
But that doesn’t mean they should be denied the opportunity for employment, especially if they want to turn their lives around. How do you do that without being able to do a hard day’s work?
That said, it’s hard as hell for job seekers with a record to get work now, and even in a good economy. Many hiring managers and even rank-and-file workers I’ve talked to say they just don’t feel comfortable having someone who has committed a crime, especially a criminal act, in their office or factory.
Realizing this big problem, states and the federal government have taken steps recently to deal with the high number of inmates that end up back in jail, often because they can’t find work. (About 700,000 people are released from prisons every year, and about two-thirds of those are expected to be back in prison within three years, according to the Department of Justice.)
The Second Chance Act was passed was passed last year, authorizing nearly $200 million, a big chunk of which is supposed to go to training ex-cons for jobs. From what I can tell, states are just now starting to tap into these funds so it’s unclear how the monies will impact ex-cons in the job hunt right now.
There are also federal and state dollars available for employers that hire ex-offenders. Philadelphia announced a program last year that would offer a $10,000 tax incentive to companies that took a chance on an ex-con. But alas, it seems no companies have taken the city up on the offer, yet, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
I know this sounds depressing but ex-cons need to realize that in many ways they’re on their own when it comes to finding work.
So let’s get proactive pronto!
First off, get a copy of Colorado’s prisoner re-entry guide. You don’t have to live in Colorado to get this. The only reason I suggest it is because it’s one of the best overviews on what to expect when you get out of the big house. It’s called “Go: Getting on After Getting Out.” (You can order it online here.)
You should also call your parole officer and the officials at your local prison and find out what’s available to ex-cons as far as job training. And Google “jobs” and “ex-cons”, “prisoners”, “inmates”, etc. in your state or town and see what comes up as far as opportunities for you.
NPR did a story on a Los Angeles program that is teaching ex-cons to install solar panels:
I also wrote a story about ex-cons and job hunting for MSNBC.com last year and it offers some advice from experts on this issue. It also includes names of some employers that have been open to hiring ex-cons.
Peter Cove, the founder of America Works, suggest parolees move quickly to land a job, any job, right out of prison so they’re not dragged into the criminal world yet again.
Experts suggest former inmates find an agency in their town that focuses on finding jobs for hard-to-place candidates and take advantage of whatever skills training they can get from the government, nonprofit groups and employment agencies with parolee experience.
America Works has locations throughout the U.S. that can be located on their Web site.
The key to getting a job — especially for an ex-con — is references, experts say. To that end, some former inmates may have to take a low-level job, work their tails off, and use that employer for recommendations for the next gig.
It’s going to be hard right now, no way around it. But the bottom line is, many ex-cons do overcome the odds and find great careers for themselves. The ones that give up don’t make it.