In the best of times, it is difficult for many people to readily find a job. The situation is even more difficult for those with a criminal conviction. In many cases, it does not even matter how long ago the crime was committed, as it will always be a blot on your record. One thing to be aware of when looking for a job as former convict is when it is necessary to disclose your criminal past.
While being honest is the best approach, it is not always vital to share this information. For example, if your criminal record was expunged or sealed, you may not need to disclose this. If the job application requires this information, detail your rehabilitation efforts as well (even if you need to do this on a separate sheet of paper). It is easy to get information these days and since most employers will do a background check anyway, being honest is the best option.
Finding Employers Who Hire Felons
There are different ways of finding companies that employ felons such as using your network of friends and family, or contacting organizations. With family and friends, you can seek employment from them or request that they put in a ‘good word’ on your behalf. Other ways to go about getting a job with a felony include:
The Internet: This is a great source of information on where to find jobs for ex-felons, training and support organizations and just for support among ex-felons and their family members. Searching the Internet using terms such as “companies that hire ex-felons”, “jobs for felons” and “employers who hire felons” is a good start. In addition, you can add a particular state’s name to these search terms to narrow down your hits to possible jobs in your location.
Some websites to visit for help in finding jobs as a felon include Jails to Jobs (http://jailstojobs.org/html/employee_incentives.html), Ranker.com (http://www.ranker.com/list/list-of-companies-that-hire-felons/business-and-company-info) , The Wizards of Jobs (http://www.thewizardofjobs.net/exfelons.html) and The Center for Employment Opportunities (http://ceoworks.org/).
- Government resources: many federal agencies have resources in place to assist ex-felons re-integrate into society. Some agencies where ex-prisoners can get help with finding jobs and resources to make their re-entry into society easier are The US Department of Justice – Center for Employment Opportunities (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/168102.pdf) and the US Department of Labor’s Federal Bonding Program (http://bonds4jobs.com/).
- Non-profits: These organizations are among the best sources of job placement information regarding employers who hire felons. Your family’s church is a good place to start. Your parole or probation officer can suggest the names of a few organizations. Some that you can contact include The National Hire Network (http://www.hirenetwork.org/), Goodwill (http://www.goodwill.org/), America Works (http://www.americaworks.com/), Prison talk (http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/links/) and CoFFE (https://www.thenextstep99.com/ ) (the Cooperative of Felon Friendly Employers).
- Make yourself employable: While incarcerated, take courses and learn a trade where possible. This way you will improve your skills and your chances on the outside will be better as you can compete on this level with others. The fact that you were learning while behind bars can also work in your favor as employers may see this as a desire on your part to do better.
- Be realistic: To save yourself disappointment, when searching for jobs do not apply for those where your chances will be slim to none. For example, a job that entails working with children or where security clearance is a requirement is normally a no-go for ex-felons.
- Join the military: Depending on the crime and how long ago it was committed, you may enlist in the army if you get a waiver to do so. This can be a good opportunity to learn skills and develop a sense of responsibility.
While it may not be publicly known in every state, some companies will hire felons if they know they can get tax breaks for doing so. In some states, the tax credit per ex-felon employed is from $600 to $1500. Depending on the size of the company, employing ex-prisoners can cut a chunk from their tax payments while helping someone get a new start on life.
Even though the law states that ex-felons should not be discriminated against when it comes to employment, the odds are still stacked against them. Many companies will not employ people with a criminal record. Sex offenders and those involved in drug trafficking offences are at an even greater disadvantage.
Explaining Your Criminal Past
If you need to explain your criminal history on an application, read the question carefully and only disclose what is being asked for. Make it your business to know what your criminal background check will reveal. Do your own checks so you are aware of what any prospective employer will find so that you will not be caught off-guard. Never use the job interview as the place to plead your innocence.
One of the important things to remember as an ex-felon if finding a job is difficult is not to become discouraged and get back into crime. For many ex-prisoners the only way forward is to start their own business. Use the resources available to you to help you find a job or start your own venture.