Statistics show that over 25% of former inmates are unemployed a year after they left prison. A report from the Prison Policy Initiative states that formerly incarcerated people are discriminated when applying for jobs. The general population has a 5.8% unemployment rate. The report reveals that women, Hispanics and blacks are the most disadvantaged people in the search for a job opportunity.
The growing unemployment rate signals pending disaster for former inmates, their families and their community. When they have no income, they get involved in illegal activities that provide them with enough money to provide housing and food for their families. The stress of unemployment puts even the average individual at the risk of committing a crime to gain money. Combining unemployment with drug and alcohol abuse, ormer inmates have higher chances to relapse and involve in criminal activities after they leave prison.
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Prisons deepen their feeling of disconnection with the community, and when employers refuse their chance to a job because of their former criminal behaviour shame adds to disconnection.
In the other hand, a full-time job provides them with an income, identity and encourages healthy social interaction and stability. They have a sense of purpose, they can financially support their family and they establish a connection with their community. All these factors lower recidivism chances.
Where to start if you are a former inmate and you cannot find a job?
You want to work, but you’re dealing with structural barriers that prevent you from securing a job. The most difficult period is the one immediately following your release because employers find hard to trust you. Studies show that unemployment is highest within the first two years of release, so you may not be able to get your dream job immediately after leaving prison.
What can you do to boost your employment chances?
- Talk to your ministry leader or pastor – Immediately after your release you should see the ministry leader or pastor and tell them you want to find employment because you want to stay away from the criminal life. They have a connection with employers and can recommend you to a job. At first, they may ask you to work as a volunteer to prove your reliability and skills. Don’t refuse their offer because they’ll evaluate your abilities and refer you to someone who is looking for workers.
- Choose the strategies you want to use – you can partner with other ex-prisoners who cannot find a job to form a team that handles a volunteering project to help the community. It helps you prove your talent and trustworthiness. Define the type of services you can offer so possible employees to determine if they need to hire you.
- Enrol to training – it’s important to acquire new skills employers are looking for, and the best way to do it is to join training sessions. You need to decide what job you want and look for seminars and workshops in that area. Many local organisations provide qualification classes for discriminated and disadvantaged people, so you’ll definitely find one that can help you improve your skills.
- Reach out potential employers – once you complete your training and create a portfolio with projects you volunteered for since your release, you should approach employers. Begin by contacting employers in your community and church because the pastor and other reputable members of the community can recommend you. Show them what you do to help your community, and why hiring someone like you can benefit their business. Tell them about the Federal Bonding Program the authorities created to protect employers when hiring ex-prisoners. And don’t forget to mention the Work Opportunity Tax Credits because all companies are looking for ways to cut taxes and save money.
How can you reach out the right employer?
Even if it would be great to have a complete list of companies that hire people with criminal records, this list doesn’t exist. Some companies have no issue to hire people with a record because they know many former inmates have great skills, they can use to grow their businesses.
Let’s say that you are a talented accountant everyone in your industry praises for your skills, but you didn’t stop at a red light and caused an accident, so now you are in prison. When employers are looking for skilled accountants, your LinkedIn profile definitely appears in their search, so they’ll try to contact you. And because you cannot answer your phone, they use this online tool to find out where you are imprisoned. This way they recruit a great candidate before he/she enters the job market because they know that alongside using their skills to grow business, they also benefit from tax discounts.
There are some strategies you can use to boost your chances to land a job.
You should contact a community organisation that helps ex-offenders find work opportunities. Many local services counsel ex-prisoners and place them with local employers. Companies trust to hire the former inmates these organisations recommend because they refer only reliable people who got training to gain skills employers can use.
You should use all the resources you have to connect with employers.
- Ask your family, friends, and counsellors if they know someone interested in hiring a candidate with your skills.
- Contact employers in person or by email and ask them about job openings. Don’t be afraid to talk about your crime because it’s an opportunity to show your possible employer that you’re sorry and you wouldn’t do the same mistake.
- Register on job directories and apply to online openings.
- Attend job fairs and introduce yourself to employers. Sometimes all people need is to meet you in person to convince them you are the right person for the job. Even if you have a criminal record, they cannot deny your skills and knowledge, so make sure to start the conversation by highlighting your skills and former experience (if you have any).
- Often, ex-offenders convince companies to hire them when they present the benefit they have if they employ people with criminal records. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit offers them tax discounts if they employ low-income ex-offenders. Small companies find this an advantage because it saves them money.
- You should also tell them about the Federal Bonding Program that provides insurance for companies concerned about dishonesty or theft by a worker. Offer them the phone number they can call to get more info about the program.