Felons who are starting over in the state of Utah have access to a number of programs to help them find employment and housing. Without this kind of help, the recidivist rate in the state would be much higher. A number of organizations assist ex-felons in the form of counselling, coping skills, job training and placement, and with necessities including food.
Most of the jobs for felons in Utah are mostly minimum wage, but there are ways to upgrade your skills and help you find better jobs over time. In Utah, federal jobs have helped many felons to get a new start. Some of these jobs are on government construction projects or in public areas like parks.
Gaining Job Skills
Since employment is a pressing need for ex-felons, adequate training is a necessity. Some organizations consider it their mission to train ex-felons to enhance the process of rehabilitation. One such example is the NCJP – National Center For Justice Planning (http://ncjp.org/content/leveraging-partnerships-utah%E2%80%99s-employment-placement-project). This organization helps boost an ex-offender’s chances of successful re-entry to their communities. It utilizes partnerships with other organizations to create employment opportunities for felons. In addition to vocational training, ex-inmates will also receive assistance with job placement.
The Utah Department of Corrections (http://www.corrections.utah.gov/) has undertaken its own project aimed at helping to ease the transition for felons returning to the outside world. With the help of other local agencies, it has formed the Utah Defendant/Offender Workforce Development (UDOWD) Task Force (http://corrections.utah.gov/index.php/programs/finding-employment.html). Its workshops have been instrumental in helping felons to gain confidence in trying to get back into the workforce. Since its inception, the movement has continued to gain traction, helping many ex-felons to find and hold on to jobs. The collaborative effort has gotten support from the business community, and is now a major source of jobs for felons in Utah.
Useful job resources can also be found on the Internet when looking for jobs in this state. Some websites worth checking for job leads are:
- Felony Guide (http://felonyguide.com/Jobs-for-convicted-felons.php): This website offers helpful advice on the intricacies of starting a job search. Some important pointers include being honest with prospective employers, and who to get advice from when looking for a job.
Career One stop (http://www.careeronestop.org/businesscenter/recruitandhire/hiringadiverseworkforce/ex-offenders.aspx): This website targets business owners, seeking to encourage them to employ ex-offenders. It provides information on the incentive programs available to felon friendly employers such as The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (https://jobs.utah.gov/employer/business/wotc.html). This program offers employers who hire felons a reduction in their federal taxes. This can go as high as $9,600 depending on the employee and whether they are full time, part time or seasonal.
The US Department of Labor’s Federal Bonding Program (http://www.bonds4jobs.com/): Employers will receive fidelity bonds from this program to cover the employment of at-risk persons. Employers will not pay a fee for this coverage, and it will last for the first six months of employment.
- Scribd (http://www.scribd.com/doc/63686436/Employers-That-Hire-Felons-in-Utah): People looking for felon friendly companies can browse the extensive listing provided by this website. The companies are listed alphabetically and their phone numbers are provided.
Finding Affordable Housing
It is as much of a challenge to find housing for felons in Utah as it is in any other state. A prison sentence can put off even the most sympathetic landlord, as they often worry about the safety of their property and other tenants. Ex-felons who join support groups are usually off to a good start as they can talk to other former convicts who are already renting apartments or homes.
An easy way to start a search is to check the classifieds. Some landlords may indicate that they are willing to rent to felons. It is important to check out the area in the ad listing, as it might be crime prone. Searching the Internet for ‘housing for felons in Utah’ or ‘felon housing in Utah’ will also yield results. Be sure to check felon forums online or apartment databases as these could point you in the right direction. The Utah Affordable Housing Database (http://findhousing.utah.gov/search.do) is a good place to start a search as it caters to individuals of limited means.
The Prison Talk forums (http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/) can put you in touch with people who know where to find apartments. Users will have to register to use the website, but it is free to use. The website, Xamire.com ( http://xamire.com/felony-friendly/utah.html) allows landlords to submit any property they are willing to rent to felons.
Felons may also be entitled to federal aid for housing, as many of them can apply for section 8 vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/utah). Various Catholic charities in Utah also help thousands of people with various needs including housing. Felons can contact the Utah Housing Authorities (http://housinguc.org/) to learn if they qualify for any kind of housing assistance such as help with rent, or finding affordable housing. Lastly, felons should never underestimate the kind of valuable tips on housing aid they can get from prison counsellors and parole officers. They too are interested in helping felons get back on their feet and avoid going back to crime.