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Showing posts with label Felon Friendly Jobs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Felon Friendly Jobs. Show all posts

Saturday, November 18, 2023

How to Get a Job With a Felony on Your Record


Everyone deserves a second chance.

But in the past, many job seekers with a felony record have found it difficult to reintegrate into the workforce. The dreaded check-the-box-question, “Have you been convicted of a crime in the past 10 years?” can be a huge obstacle.

Change to this approach by employers has been slow, but change is happening.

In 2016, 19 large, influential employers gathered at the White House with President Barack Obama to sign the Fair Chance Business Pledge, which represented “a call-to-action for all members of the private sector to improve their communities by eliminating barriers for those with a criminal record and creating a pathway for a second chance.”

A few years later, the federal “ban the box” law — formally known as the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 (FCA) — was enacted to prohibit federal employers, including private companies with federal contracts, from asking about arrests and criminal convictions  before a conditional job offer. Employers can still inquire about criminal history, including a background check, after a conditional offer is made.

Additionally, 37 states and 150 cities and counties across the country have adopted similar “ban the box” laws, according to the National Employment Law Project.

With potential employers being more open, at least publicly, to hiring felons, here’s how job seekers with criminal records should navigate the job hunting process as they attempt to enter the workforce.

Obstacles Felons Face Finding Jobs

When trying to reintegrate into society, formerly incarcerated individuals already are up against the eight ball — without even factoring in a felony conviction on their record.

“It’s different from place to place, but typically you get $200 — enough to get some clothing and a bus ticket, and you have to figure it out from there,” says Adam Sanders, founder and reentry adviser at The Relaunch Pad, an organization that helps felons find employment and reintegrate into society.

“Then if you’ve been in prison for several years, you don’t have a valid government ID aside from your prison ID,” Sanders says. Most people leaving prison don’t have a permanent address or phone number. That process can take several weeks, making it even harder to find work immediately.

Parole requirements can also affect employment. “Having to report two or three times a week during normal business hours can make it very difficult in any job, let alone a job you have trouble getting to begin with,” Sanders says.

Outside of situational difficulties, felons also face a lot of stigma and misconception during the hiring process, Sanders says. They’re viewed as dishonest, lazy, unintelligent or simply not worth investing time in. A potential employer might feel like it’s a countdown to when the job seeker will be back in prison, so why invest in an employee who isn’t going to be around long?

So how do job seekers with criminal records overcome these inherent obstacles?

How to Find a Job With a Felony

Follow these tips on searching for the right jobs and moving through the job search and hiring process.

1. Use word-of-mouth. People without criminal records use their network, friends and family to find jobs. The same applies for people with felony convictions. “That tends to be where I’ve seen people get jobs the fastest,” Sanders says. “Maybe somebody from your church is looking for a receptionist. Apply at companies where you can get a referral and a friend can say, ‘Yeah, I know this guy. He’s a good guy.’ ” Adding that personal angle is a definite advantage when trying to overcome an obstacle like a criminal record.

2. Don’t be picky. “It’s much easier to find a second job after you already have a little bit of job history,” Sanders adds. “If you can get in somewhere and establish yourself as someone who shows up, does their job as a reliable employee, it’s much easier to climb the ladder.”

3. Search in industries that need workers. Manufacturing, manual labor, customer service and restaurants tend to be more open to hiring people with criminal records because they have looser policies. Sanders says COVID-19 also greatly affected employers’ willingness to hire felons. “They’re willing to take a chance because they just need people,” he says.

4. Be proactive. Once you get in front of someone, Sanders says it’s vital to pitch yourself and prove how you’ll be a good employee. “If you can present yourself as somebody who’s willing to go the extra mile, someone who’s willing to take initiative, you’d be surprised at how many people are willing to say ‘sure’ even if your background isn’t ideal.”

5. Honesty is the best policy. Being honest is incredibly important when facing the initial “check-the-box” question: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” Almost every employer asks the question, so it’s vital to get the awkward out of the way and go ahead and deal with it. Says Sanders: “If they’re open to hiring people with convictions, they’re looking for people who take responsibility and are going to be honest with their employer going forward.” He adds that there’s no need to go into great detail about the conviction on the front end.

6. Consider going into sales. “This is actually one of the skills that we emphasize with the guys we work with,” Sanders says. “If you can become a good salesman, it literally doesn’t matter what your background is in many cases.” Sales is just a valuable skill to have in general, regardless of whether you have a criminal record. “If you can sell, you can make a great living, and you will always have a job.”

Sanders says the key to finding a job as a felon is just having the right mindset. “It’s not easy, but a lot of people have done it. You can do it, too. Just keep your head up, keep pushing, and something will come along.”

14 Major Companies That Hire Felons

While it’s hard to verify which companies, in practice, are willing to hire felons, many corporations signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge. Some of the more prominent companies include:

  • American Airlines
  • The Coca-Cola Co.
  • Facebook
  • Georgia Pacific
  • Google
  • The Hershey Co.
  • The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System
  • Koch Industries
  • PepsiCo
  • Prudential
  • Starbucks
  • Uber
  • Unilever
  • Xerox

See the full list of companies that signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge.

Robert Bruce is a senior staff writer at The Penny Hoarder covering earning, saving and managing money. He has written about personal finance for more than a decade.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website that empowers millions of readers nationwide to make smart decisions with their money through actionable and inspirational advice, and resources about how to make, save and manage money.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Understanding how records can be sealed

Originally published on Feb 23, 2020
Joann Sahl AND Russell Nicholls
Herald Star

Eligible offenders convicted of certain types of crimes can ask the court to expunge, or seal, their convictions. If the court seals a conviction, that conviction is no longer in the public record. Courts seal records so that eligible offenders can move on with their lives without the stigma of a criminal conviction.

Qualifying for sealing

An eligible offender is someone who has no more than five felony convictions. An eligible offender may have unlimited misdemeanor convictions. When a court determines if you are eligible for sealing, it will not consider minor misdemeanors and most convictions for possession of marijuana (which is generally a minor misdemeanor). The court also will not consider most minor traffic offenses, but it will consider convictions for OVIs and DUIs.

Most misdemeanors, fourth and fifth-degree felonies, and in some instances a third-degree felony, can be sealed unless a criminal statute specifically states that a particular crime is not eligible.

Though the court will not consider minor traffic offenses when determining if you are an eligible offender, traffic offenses, including OVIs/DUIs, cannot be sealed. Additionally, you cannot seal first- and second-degree felonies, and any felony with a mandatory prison sentence. Finally, almost all crimes of violence, sex crimes and offenses where the victim was under 16 years old cannot be sealed. However, first-degree misdemeanor assault and domestic violence menacing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, can be sealed in some circumstances.

How to apply for sealing

You may apply for sealing if one year has passed since your sentence ended for a misdemeanor. If you have one felony, you have to wait three years after your felony sentence ends. For two felonies, the waiting period is four years, and for three to five felonies, you must wait five years after your last felony sentence ended. In addition, the waiting period generally does not begin until you pay any restitution you might owe, as well as fines.

Your request for sealing should be filed in the court where you were sentenced. Once you apply, the court will set a hearing date. The probation department will usually investigate your case and prepare a report for the court to use to determine whether you are an eligible offender. The prosecutor may challenge the sealing request by filing an objection before the hearing date.

The court will determine if you have been rehabilitated, and it will weigh your interest in clearing your name against the government’s need to allow public access to your records. The court will review the probation report to see how you have behaved since the conviction. The decision whether to seal your record is up to the judge.

It is important to know that the court will not automatically seal your case if it was dismissed, you were found not guilty or if the grand jury issued a “no bill” and refused to indict you. You must follow the procedure outlined in this article to get records sealed. There is no waiting period to file for sealing a dismissal or a not guilty verdict. A person may apply to have a “no bill” sealed two years after it is filed.

Access to sealed records

In some situations, the law allows certain employers and state agencies to access your sealed record.

Examples include if you want to care for an older adult, work for a children’s services agency, work for a bank or want to work as a police or corrections officer.

If you apply for a state vocational license, the licensing agency also may be able to see your sealed record. In addition, the police may be able to access your sealed record as part of a criminal case or investigation or if you are seeking a concealed carry permit.

People might also be able to find out about your conviction online. There are many private background check companies, as well as news articles, that may have information about your criminal case. Those organizations will not receive notice that your conviction has been sealed. Once the court seals your record, you should try to notify any organization that has a record of your conviction. It is important to remember that potential employers may use these companies to perform pre-employment background checks, and your conviction could still appear on a background check.

How an attorney can help

It can be complicated to determine if you are eligible to have your criminal record sealed. It requires a review of all of your convictions, even those in other states, and the appropriate law. An attorney can look at your criminal record to help you decide if you are eligible to have your record sealed.

(Sahl is the assistant director of the University of Akron Legal Clinic. Nichols is the director of the Expungement Clinic and the Inmate Assistance program at the University of Akron Law School. The column was written as part of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Law You Can Use series.)

Understanding how records can be sealed

Companies that hire felons

Sealing a Criminal Record

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Understanding how records can be sealed

Eric Mayo

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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Jobs for Felons: They Want Something Better

COURTESY PHOTO | Charles participated in the STEP Forward program, which runs through the McHenry County Workforce Network and is designed to fill local employers’ needs while giving ex-offenders an opportunity for employment. “I’m so grateful for them,” Charles said.

by Susan W. Murray, The Woodstock Independent

Charles, a 41-year-old McHenry County resident, grew up “in a diverse community where there were gangs and drugs.”

By the age of 13, he was caught up in both. At 17, he went to prison for the first time at the Joliet Correctional Facility. He spent 13 years of his life incarcerated.

“There were many instances when I should have been dead,” Charles said. “At one point, I was, almost.”

Upon his last release, he realized how tired he was of the life he had been living.

“I wanted to do better for myself,” he said.

Up against long odds

Minimum wage jobs filled the gaps between prison stretches, but they didn’t add up to a career path. While considering getting a commercial driver’s license, Charles heard about the STEP Forward program – Stateline Transforming Employment Potential.

Launched in 2018, the program grew as a response to the needs of McHenry County employers.

As a business services representative at the McHenry County Workforce Network, which assists job seekers in finding positions, Thomas Faber tries “to find out what local employers need.”

That need, especially as the economy improved after 2010, Faber said, was for “more and more skilled workers.”

In pondering that problem, Faber came to a somewhat surprising solution.

“I don’t think that we’ve considered people who have criminal backgrounds,” he thought.

The FBI’s centralized database lists 70 million people in the United States who have criminal records. That’s nearly 28 million more than have bachelor’s degrees and represents 21 percent of the population.

“We need to be open to the possibility that ex-offenders can be good workers,” Faber said.

Workshops start process 

A board member of the Stateline Society of Human Resource Management, Faber took his idea to other board members, hoping it could address employers’ needs and help ex-offenders.

The board reacted enthusiastically and set up a STEP Forward Steering Committee. Faber and the committee created a five-week series of workshops to be run through the Workforce Network to help ex-offenders plan a return to work, identify a career path, write a résumé, and handle themselves in job interviews, with tips on how to keep a job and advance at a company.

McHenry County College supported the program with pre-apprentice training and then created boot camps – short-term training in various fields, including manufacturing.

Faber recruited volunteer presenters from MCC, local employers, human resource departments, and state and government agencies.

“The first workshop had two participants and six volunteers,” Faber said. “We outnumbered them.”

But the word got out, and soon more participants were signing up for the five-session workshops.

Combining work, training

Faber sits down with each ex-offender who comes to the Workforce Network, including some convicted of armed robbery and murder, but he is comfortable meeting face-to-face.

“A majority of them have gone through a transformation,” Faber said. “They want something better.”

He is less interested in the crimes his interviewees have committed and more “in how transparent they are.”

“If they’re honest, that’s someone I can work with and who an employer can work with,” Faber explained.

After Charles completed his workshop sessions, he identified an interest in CNC – computer numerical control of machine tools. After starting classes on lathe and mill operation through the Technology and Manufacturing Association, Charles heard from Faber about an opportunity to work at Variable Operations Technologies (Vo-Tech, Inc.) in Crystal Lake for 20 hours a week, getting on-the-job training while continuing his education.

Afraid that people would look down on him for his many tattoos and his “vernacular,” Charles dedicated himself to being on time, paying attention to detail, and being a hardworking employee. He “always had a strong work ethic,” he said, even when he was involved in the drug trade.

“This time, putting my best foot forward led me in the right direction,” he said.

When Charles finished his classes, he was hired full time as a CNC technician at Vo-Tech.

The job came with a steady income, insurance, vacation time, and a gym where employees may work out. During the pandemic, Vo-Tech’s production of computer-automated machining systems for the nuclear, healthcare, agriculture, and food industries meant that he was considered an essential employee.

“That was a great feeling,” he said. “I take pride in going to work every day.”

Creating believers

Adam Furman, Vo-Tech’s operations manager, said that four of his company’s 24 employees have come from the STEP Forward program.

His sister and fellow Vo-Tech employee, Jennifer Chrachol, first heard of the program. She learned that companies that hire and train someone from STEP Forward are eligible for cost reimbursement and subsidies for the person’s salary.

While acknowledging the financial pluses of the program, Furman said he would advise other companies not to sign on “just to benefit from the program.”

“Hiring people is always a risk,” Furman said, and he praised Faber for the job he does to screen people before recommending them to a local employer.

“These people are hungry to learn, to get a job, and to start a new direction in their lives,” Furman said. “It’s hard to find that sort of person, even without a criminal background.”

Furman makes it a point to go out on the floor and talk with his employees each day before heading to his office.

“You have to get to know the people and build a relationship with them to create trust,” Furman said. “We’re trying to be that company that gives people a second chance.”

Plaudits and plans

Faber said he resisted the urge to judge the STEP Forward’s success by “looking at the numbers.”

“I value the good fit and the retention,” he said.

He also does not measure how long it takes the workshops’ participants to get a job.

“All are individuals, and some are more ready than others,” he said.

This year, STEP Forward received the Pinnacle Award from the national HR society in Washington, D.C., in recognition of the initiative’s positive impact on the local HR and business communities.

Since receiving the award, Faber has heard from HR society chapters in Rockford and Springfield that want to replicate the model.

STEP Forward recently wrapped up its fall workshops – held via Zoom – with three participants who have career dreams as diverse as robotic systems engineer, a paralegal, and nursing.

The emphasis is to “think bigger,” Faber said.

“Ex-offenders will have better success if they resist taking just anything and look for the job that’s the right fit,” he said.

Faber plans a second employer workshop for next summer to encourage local businesses to hire STEP Forward participants, familiarizing business owners with the tax credits, grants, and other funding available and having attorneys on hand to talk about legal issues.

This year, Charles received an individual achievement award from the Illinois Workforce Partnership for overcoming barriers and getting back to work. He will soon start a TMA apprenticeship to be a certified CNC machinist and has been inspired to create TikTok videos, such as “Top Jobs for Ex-Felons in 2021,” in an effort to reduce recidivism.

“I want to be a man of value,” Charles said, “a man who has knowledge in his industry and can make his company better.”

companies that hire felons

Jobs for Felons: The Facts about Companies that Hire Ex offenders and Felons

Companies hire felons | companies that hire felons | Companies that hire ex-offenders | Employers that hire ex-offenders | employers that hire felons | Jobs for felons | jobs for ex-offenders | jobs that hire felons | places that hire felons | felon friendly jobs | felon friendly employers | how to get a job with criminal record | second chance jobs for felons | temp agencies that hire felons | high paying jobs for felons | List of companies that Hire Felons

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Monday, December 5, 2022

I have no problem hiring ex-offenders. But they’re being let down

Originally published at

I don’t care if a candidate for my company’s open position has a criminal record. But I do care about something more important.

My company is hoping to hire a part-time person to implement and support some of the software applications we sell. Like most small business owners, finding someone isn’t easy in this tight labor market, despite all the recent tech industry layoffs. I can’t afford to pay what some of these people earn – or were earning – in Silicon Valley and therefore my choices are limited. So, what to do?

How about hiring someone with a criminal record?

A portrait of a man with a graying beard wearing a black skull cap.
Sentenced to life for stealing $14: ‘I needed help, but was given jail’

Large corporations including JP Morgan Chase, American Airlines, AT&T and CVS have been doing it for years. State and federal prison systems offer all sorts of opportunities for employers to hire people who were formerly incarcerated. It’s not a bad bet either: studies – like this one – show that people with criminal records are no more likely to quit or be fired than anyone else.

States like Iowa and cities like Philadelphia offer cash incentives to employers who hire ex-convicts. The federal government also offers a very generous tax credit – the Work Opportunity Tax Credit – for hiring people who recently got out of prison. A number of non-profits like Honest Jobs, CareerAddict, 2ndChances4Felons and the Women’s Prison Association connect employers to prospective employees with criminal records or offer programs that help the process. The Department of Labor offers assistance through its CareerOneStop platform.

"You pay your dues and should be allowed to live your life. Most of my clients feel the same. So does the general public."

I wouldn’t have a problem filling my open position with an ex-felon or someone with a criminal record. People mess up. Some more seriously than others. But you pay your dues and should be allowed to try to live your life. Most of my clients feel the same. And so does the general public. In fact, a person’s criminal history has become so trivial that although employers can ask a prospective candidate about it during pre-employment screenings or background checks, many states do not allow that employer to discriminate based on their findings.

So no, I don’t care if a candidate for my company’s open position has a criminal record or is an ex-felon. But I do care about something that, to me, is even more important.

Can they read?

It’s one thing for all of these government programs and non-profit organizations to help ex-felons secure employment. But are they even qualified?

There are 10m open jobs in the US – hence the tight labor market – but employers are primarily looking for skilled workers. Most of my clients, like me, need workers who have knowledge. And if they don’t have the knowledge, they need to be able to learn, study and research. You can’t do this if you don’t read.

Many studies, like this one from 2003 by the Urban Institute, found that about 70% of offenders and ex-offenders are high school dropouts. About half are “functionally illiterate”, meaning they can’t read above a fourth-grade level.

Worse, statistics show that 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are essentially illiterate. Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. I can’t hire someone – or even teach them the skills my company requires – if they don’t have a high school level of literacy. Being illiterate is a complete non-starter.

Some of the big companies – and good for them – have the resources to help these ex-convicts learn these skills. But small businesses like mine, which employ more than half of the country’s workers, don’t have the ability to do this. So what can be done?

"Governments and non-profits should be investing in programs to get prisoners educated on the basics of reading and math."

The answer is literacy. Don’t pay me to hire ex-felons. Pay to get them literate. People in prison need to learn how to read, period. Instead of tax credits and other incentives for businesses to hire, governments and non-profits should be investing in programs to get prisoners educated on the basics of reading and math first. That’s the priority. Because once someone is at a proficient level of education, he or she can then learn the rest. But they can’t do that if they can’t read an instruction manual or study for a Microsoft certification.

That’s what I’m looking for before hiring someone out of prison. I need people who can read. Unfortunately, that’s not what the system is producing.

Companies that hire Felons

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Jobs for Felons

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Monday, January 25, 2021

How Felons Can Land Jobs Today

How Felons Can Land Jobs Today

How Felons Can Land Jobs Today
Finding a job in this day and age is different than it was even five years ago.  The computer age has changed the way we look for and apply for jobs.  Felons looking for jobs face different challenges than other job seekers.  By using some different techniques, felons can dramatically increase their job opportunities.  Take a look at these tips and your next job will not be far away.

Get out and Network

Asking people you already know about jobs that may be open is called networking.  This is the single most powerful way to get job leads.  In fact, most people get their jobs this way.  Networking is works so well because many employers will take a good a look at people who are referred to them.

How many categories of people do you know?  This a big group of people who can provide you with a lot of quality job leads.

People in the neighborhood
How Felons can Land Jobs TodayParole/probation officers
Members of your worship group (especially religious leaders)
Former co- workers
Other Former Inmates
Former teachers
Former employers
Casual acquaintances
People you do business with (Barber, landlord, doctors)

This is eleven categories of people.  Let's say you got five job leads from people in each category. That is a possible 55 high quality leads for jobs.  That would be a great start for your job search.  This the single most powerful way to get a job and it how most people find jobs

Get a Professional Looking Email

How Felons Can Land Jobs Today
Your email address should have a professional look.  Employers will probably take more seriously if you have a professional looking email address.  You may want to one that uses your first and last name separated by a period, followed by the two numbers of your date of birth  ex:

Clean Up Your Social Media

How Felons Can Land Jobs Today
Clean up your social media
With the popularity of social media, it would be difficult to find a lot of people who are not using some form of it. More and more, employers are checking social media pages to get a better idea of
who they are considering.  So take a good look at your social media profile or page.  Is there anything that leave a bad taste of an employer's mouth?  You may want to remove it.  That means any objectionable pictures, posts or videos.

Apply for Every Job You are Qualified for

How felons can land jobs today
Too many felons miss out on jobs simply because they don't apply.  Felons get jobs everyday.  Don't assume that you will not be hired because you have a record.  Never talk yourself out of a job.  What you must understand that the numbers on on your side when it comes to getting a job with a criminal record.  More applications, will lead to more interviews.  More interviews will lead to more opportunities to get hired.  Make a goal of a certain number applications each week and stick to it. Every application you fill out will take you one step closer to getting a job.

Get Professional Looking Interview Clothing

The choice of clothing you wear to an interview will have a huge impact on your chances to get hired.  Remember you are not going to a nightclub or a party.  An interview is a business meeting and you should look like you are ready for business.  Your clothes will create an image or perception of the type of person you are, so choosing your look is critical to presenting yourself as a professional.  It doesn't matter what position you apply for, you should present yourself as a professional.


Men should should wear a dark suit, a light shirt, a tie and shoes that can be shined.  If a suit is
How Felons Can Land Jobs Today
unavailable, dark slacks, light colored shirt, a tie and once again, shoes that can be shined.


The ideal look is a classic business suit (either slacks or skirt,) a light colored blouse and coordinated shoes with a medium or low heel.  Earrings should be small. Nail polish and makeup should be natural looking and tasteful.

Not everyone has clothing like described above, but it is important to get them.  How you look will definitely influence an employer.  If finances are an issue, you may want to look into thrift stores to find appropriate interview clothing.  At thrift stores you will find suits, slacks, shirts, ties and shoes at very affordable prices.

Need Interview Clothes? Ex offenders and Felons Should try Thrift Stores

No matter where you find your clothing, clean and neatly pressed clothing will give you the professional look and help you make a good impression.

When looking for a job, dress like you are going to an interview

I encourage ex-offenders and felons to dress like you are going on an interview whenever you go out filling out applications.  You never know who you are going to meet on your job search.  It's always better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.

Make a list of your skills 

How Felons Can Land Jobs Today
Make a list of all of your skills and be able to talk about each one.  Make a list your skills and practice talking about them.  The better you can explain you value, the better your chances to get hired. The skills you should focus on are:

Work-specific Skills

These are skills that were acquired by working at a particular jobs.  Can you paint, cook, use tools or perform other types of work?  The skills you used to perform on a job are all examples of work-specific skills.

Transferable Skills

These are skills that can be taken from one type of job and used in other types of work.  Typing, use of office equipment, and telephone skills are all examples of transferable skills.

Personal Skills

These are skills that are part of your personality that helps you do other things well.  Are you a punctual person?  Do you work well under pressure?  Do you work well with customers?  These are all personal skills.

These are three types of skills you can sell to an employer.  If you can easily talk about your skills and how they can benefit an employer, you can get job, even with a criminal record

Follow Up

Follow up with everyone you meet on your job search.  If you fill out an application, find out the name and phone number of the hiring person.  If you get an interview, always get the business card of the person you interview with. The business card will have the interviewer's name, title, address, phone number  and email address.  Right after the interview, you may want to send a thank you email.  If you really want to stand out, you could even send a thank you card.

Get Good References

Having a few good references may be the difference that could get you hired. Have a list reputable who would say something positive about you make a list of five great references.  A reference may look like this:
How Felons Can Land Jobs Today
Mr. David O'Bannion
Vice President, Marketing
XYZ Company
922 N. Bank St.
Chicago, IL 60610

References should never be included on your resume.  They should be listed on a separate sheet and only be submitted upon request.  Before you use anyone as a reference, you should ask their permission.

Use your One-stop Career Center

How Felons Can Land Jobs Today
Every ex-offender or felon looking for a job should visit their local One-stop Career Center.  You will find many resources that can help you find a job or get training for a new career.  You may get personal assistance from trained employment counselors.  You can get help writing a resume, learn interviewing techniques and find lists of open jobs in your community.  Click this link to find your local One-stop Career Center  One-stop Career  Centers

companies that hire felons

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Eric Mayo

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Jobs for Felons: Finding a job even tougher for former inmates during pandemic

( Nati Harnik / Orlando Sentinel)

By Katy Rice, Originally published ORLANDO SENTINEL 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented barriers to the already difficult process of former inmates navigating their return to society, leaving advocates scrambling for new ways to help.

The crisis has halted some reentry programs entirely, limited the resources available to their clients or forced them to operate virtually. Advocates say some returning citizens will find the help simply isn’t there.

Then there’s the always-daunting challenge of finding a job. Without one, released inmates are unable to pay fines and fees associated with reentry, like the supervision fees often required for probation. Maintaining employment is often a requirement of supervision — and failing to do so can count as a violation.

Jill Viglione, a researcher and assistant criminal justice professor at UCF, recently contacted 213 community parole and probation agencies nationwide, finding that 30% to 50% of supervised people have lost their jobs since the pandemic began, the majority of which were in the service industry.

Out-of-work ex-offenders now find themselves among a flood of the newly unemployed people, many without the burden of a criminal history.

“It has the potential to really set a lot of people back who might have been working really hard to find a job or working really hard to maintain the job that they’ve had, and I’m worried about them for the future,” Viglione said.

‘The box’ still a barrier

David Crout, who spent four years in prison before being released in 2014, knows how tough it is to find a job.

“When I got out of prison, I was walking with the clothes on my back, no money,” said Crout, now 54.

Crout had lost a hospital job after he became addicted to prescription drugs and was convicted on endangerment and larceny charges. He lived at a homeless shelter after he was released from prison while looking for a stable job that offered a livable wage — without any luck.

“Twenty years of working in a hospital, but they don’t look at that when I look for an apartment, they don’t look at that when I look for a job, they look at ‘ex-offender,‘” he said. “ ... It’s a stigma, like homelessness, that’s placed on people.”

Crout eventually got back on his feet and moved to Leesburg, where he’s currently searching for a new job in a challenging market that has seen many workers laid off or unemployed in recent months.

Advocates worry employers’ prejudice against people with a criminal background, which is always a challenge ex-offenders face, will be even more difficult to overcome when so many people are out of work and seeking jobs.

“People who don’t have a criminal background are vying for those same jobs, because now they’re unemployed and they’re having to look outside their own preferred field or their own career,” Osceola County Jail reentry specialist Christina Mayo said. “… The competition is so much higher.”

Often, that prejudice arises in the first step of the hiring process: a screening question asking whether an applicant has been convicted of a felony is a staple on most job applications.

The nationwide “Ban the Box” campaign has been fighting to eliminate that hurdle for nearly two decades.

“The point is to actually look at the person as a person, look at their job skills and then find out, if there is a conviction history, does it have something to do with the job,” said Mark Fujiwara of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, the nonprofit that started the campaign.

Florida currently has no statewide law banning the box. A bill that proposed preventing employers from asking about a job candidate’s criminal background in the first stages of the hiring process died in committee in March.

But some cities have removed the question from employment applications. Orlando banned the box for applicants to city positions in May 2015.

Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said another approach governments can take is to give priority in awarding contracts to businesses that hire ex-offenders.

Fujiwara suggested banning the box could help the economy well after the country recovers from the pandemic. But the current work-from-home boom presents potential pitfalls for ex-offenders, who may have limited access to and experience with the technology involved.

“A lot of people don’t have the skills or the resources to participate in the socially distanced, remote workforce,” Fujiwara said.

Finding work is essential to successful reentry, Meade said. In addition to having to pay fees associated with probation or parole and afford housing and transportation, a former prisoner could owe child support or face fines that can make it difficult to obtain a driver’s license, which in turn makes it difficult to get a job.

“This person is forced to pay for financial obligations that he has, but ... he’s prevented from actually being able to do the work,” Meade said.

Job counseling goes virtual

Usually, Turning Point Counseling works with inmates considered at risk of recidivism in a classroom setting at the Osceola County Jail to address their post-release concerns and create transition plans.

But COVID-19 has halted the mental health and life skills services program from accepting new inmates. One-on-one sessions are currently the only option, and even those have become difficult to arrange due to restrictions on inmate movement within the jail.

“It may be awhile before we can get back to that typical method that this program was really designed to do,” said Joanne Turner, who founded Turning Point Counseling in 1995. “... We’re doing the best that we can, and I know other programs like ours probably feel the same way.”

As the pandemic continues, Turner is rethinking how Turning Point will assist people in the future, whether it’s through Plexiglas at the jail’s chaplain’s office or through Zoom sessions with ex-offenders after they’re released.

Viglione said use of virtual methods to track and supervise ex-offenders has risen in the months since the pandemic started. Her June survey of 213 supervision agencies found that 91% were meeting with people through video conferencing, something nearly all of those surveyed said they’d implemented due to COVID-19.

Others are still meeting with clients in person, through drive-up curbside meetings or other socially distanced measures, Viglione said.

Job centers, too, have had to embrace a hybrid approach.

Ryan Ridley, career center manager at CareerSource Central Florida’s West Orange County office, said most of the workforce planning agency’s services, including one-on-one career counseling assistance and skill training seminars, have gone online.

Goodwill of Central Florida’s job connection centers have also gone virtual. That initially posed a challenge for job seekers who didn’t have access to computers or smartphones at home, but has become less problematic since libraries reopened, said Kim Praniewicz, senior director of marketing, communications and workforce development.

Goodwill has continued to offer employment resources to people behind bars. Life skills programs for inmates in the Orange County Jail are now contactless, with inmates completing coursework for the Goodwill team to review and provide feedback.

Goodwill representatives said they haven’t seen hiring slow during the pandemic overall, but there’s been a shift in which industries are hiring. Praniewicz said hiring in the hospitality industry slowed, while warehouse and transportation positions opened up as the supply chain shifted.

Ridley said the trade and logistics industry in particular has seen increased demand, especially for commercial drivers, which Ridley said “tends to be the most friendly and tolerant background employer.”

‘It’s tough, mentally'

Crout, who is looking for a job in Leesburg through Goodwill, said he has seen other ex-offenders struggle to find work during the early months of the pandemic.

“There aren’t as many positions out there,” he said. “It’s tough, mentally.”

Ten years after he was convicted for endangerment and larceny — the former for keeping the pain pills in his car within his family’s reach and the latter for stealing his grandmother’s jewelry to support his addiction — Crout hopes to work in outreach and use his story to motivate others to make good decisions.

“You have to be strong. A lot of people are in the same position as I am, but there are a lot of people a lot worse than me, too,” Crout said. “... My worst day out here is better than my best day in prison.”

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