Sorry! No jobs for ex-prisoners!

Labor Day week seemed the perfect time to discuss the job situation for those who have served time in prison. Channor Lewis, an IT support specialist for DTE Energy in Detroit wrote an article for the Detroit News recently that does a great job of explaining the problem. 

While our specialty is not re-entry, the HFP team still finds that our former clients face real challenges when they re-enter the free world. Employers are not excited about hiring former prisoners. Despite excellent credentials, background and training, Lewis says it took him 6 months to get a job! Think about it. That’s a half-year that these guys could easily get into trouble again. Lewis said he applied for 20 positions before he received one offer, and that offer was rescinded after the company did a background check. 

Yet, those employers who boldly take the risk find that these men and women are excellent employees. My industrialist friend Andy loves to hire them! Companies often find that hiring returning citizens- actually lowers the turnover rate, because these people want to hold down a position. They know what the alternative looks like! A study of job performance shows that employees with criminal records had longer tenure and were less likely to quit. Still, employers continue to resist the concept. 

Lewis has a couple of suggestions for the formerly incarcerated that should help them on the path to gainful employment. His parole officer recommended that he get involved with the Center for Employment Opportunities, a national non-profit that helps persons with a criminal justice history. And while working with that organization, he learned of another: Per Scholas, which provides skills training and access to employer networks. 

While reading Susan Burton’s book Becoming Ms. Burton I could feel the author’s pain as she told about the repeated job application rejections, all because she had to check that little box that indicated she had once been convicted of a crime. 

“We're willing to spend countless dollars putting people who need help in cages, and then when they get out we say you can't have a job, and you can't have housing, and because you don't have either, we're going to take your kids, too.” 

One can only hope that with today’s increased hiring shortage, the trend will change. Those employers who take the risk are in for a pleasant surprise. Those persons who get hired will prove their worth.



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