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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Jobs for Felons: Training programs give ex-prisoners a chance at landing a job

Jobs for Felons: Ex-felons face rough job prospects



Michael Harrington -Sandusky Register 

When four ex-offenders lost their jobs at a local Burger King, the area lost one of just a few felon-friendly employers.

One local business still willing to give felons a chance is Manny’s Car Wash on Cleveland Road. The car wash’s owner, Manny Jeffries, knows what many ex-convicts are going through having been through it himself.

Jeffries turned his life around and now owns two car washes: one on Cleveland Road in Sandusky and another on Justice Street in Fremont. He wants to help others do the same.

“Everybody deserves to get up and get another shot at life,” Jeffries said. Unfortunately, that second chance is denied to many felons looking for jobs elsewhere.

Research suggests that employment is an important aspect in ensuring ex-offenders don’t become repeat offenders. And employment is an important part of most ex-convicts’ re-entry into society.

“Barriers to employment are among the most counterproductive collateral sanctions that stem from criminal convictions. The inability to find employment hinders successful re-entry into communities,” said Jocelyn Rosnick, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio’s assistant policy director.

A National Institute of Justice study found at least 60 percent of ex-offenders are still unemployed a year after release, and ex-offenders are half as likely to get a call back from a prospective employer. And one in six Ohioans has a misdemeanor or felony conviction, according to Rosnick.

Even though excluding ex-convicts limits a large portion of the workforce, employers still seem hesitant to hire people with criminal backgrounds and most that do, have stipulations.

“The things that’s critical is some places will hire felons, but it depends on how long ago it was and how it relates to the job they are applying for,” said Karen Balconi Ghezzi, the director of Erie County Jobs and Family Services.

When employees with a criminal record reapplied to a Burger King on U.S. 250 (Milan Road) they found out the new owner, TOMS King, had a different hiring policy.

It turned them down because their past crimes showed something the company believed would make them ill-suited for the job.

But a movement has started to stop punishing ex-convicts for crimes they’ve already served time for and to start seeing them as possible employees.

“It’s important that employers recognize that anyone with a felony conviction should be looked at as a potential employee if there is evidence they have changed their way of life and they’re unlikely to recommit a crime,” Ghezzi said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has introduced the Fair Chance Act in Congress that would ban the question on job applications asking if job-seekers have prior criminal convictions.

“Once people have served their time, they shouldn’t be blocked from earning a living,” Brown said.

The bill has bipartisan support and could usher in changes to how employers are allowed to request criminal history backgrounds from applicants.

Employer bias isn’t the only thing preventing ex-convicts from employment. Collateral sanctions, or legal penalties and disabilities unrelated to the initial offense, given to released prison inmates make it difficult for many ex-offenders to maintain a job once they have it.

A prime example of this is driving license suspensions that make it difficult for many ex-felons to make it to work on time.

“Taking away a person’s ability to drive – to get to and from work or to go out and apply for jobs – makes it even harder for people to get back on their feet,” Rosnick said. “It is imperative that we provide the necessary tools for formerly incarcerated people to rebuild their lives and support their families.”

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Jobs for Felons: Training programs give ex-prisoners a chance at landing a job


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