Every year at least 8,000 prisoners are freed from prisons in Oklahoma.
Many of these people will need to find a job and affordable housing to help them get back on their feet. Even before trying to find companies that will hire someone with a criminal record, it is important to prepare yourself for employment after prison.
While in prison, you should take classes to help you improve your skills and learn new ones. Depending on the length of your incarceration, you could even complete a degree program or two if possible.
When getting closer to your release date, you should start preparing for the world outside by doing the following:
- Start writing a resume
- Look for areas that you would be interested in working in
- Ask your prison chaplain or other authority figure for guidance on finding employment and housing
- Consider starting your own business and look at what you could do
A Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/notes/tukufu-spears/oklahoma-city-area-felony-friendly-employers/559311064097363) dedicated to helping former prisoners find companies that hire felons in Oklahoma includes these firms:
- American Movers of Oklahoma (http://movesamerican.com/)
- Coca-Cola Bottling Company (http://www.greatplainscocacola.com/)
- Greyhound Bus (https://www.greyhound.com/en/about/default.aspx)
- KFC (http://www.whitepages.com/business/OK/Oklahoma-City/kfc)
- Little Caesars Pizza (http://www.littlecaesars.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=local&utm_campaign=localmaps&utm_content=14950002)
- Big Lots (http://www.biglots.com/)
Of course, companies change their policies periodically, so you need to call to confirm if these listed companies are still felon-friendly employers. If you think that starting your own business is the way to go the Small Business Association (http://www.sba.gov/) is the first step for information and help to achieve this.
State Impact (http://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/tag/felon-jobs/) is a good site for any soon to be released or already released ex-felon to visit. It has information on programs and news that will be of value to anyone who has been behind bars.
The Center for Employment Opportunities (http://ceoworks.org/our-offices/oklahoma-city-ok/) works to help released felons to find employment. Having a job and somewhere to call home can mean a great deal to ex-offenders, and it can keep them from returning to a life of crime because survival is difficult. The success of this program in helping ex-felons find jobs has resulted in offices being opened in other states.
Another problem many ex-felons face is finding a decent place to live that they can afford. Finding housing for felons in Oklahoma can be difficult. Some ways to go about finding a place to live in a suitable area calls for the following:
- Look for housing, even short-term with family members and friends
- Find out where you can find transitional housing facilities
- Check if the felony for which you were convicted prevents you from benefiting from a HUD program. Visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/oklahoma/offices) and seek information on your state and ask questions.
How to Prepare for the Outside World
To successfully reintegrate into society, ex-inmates need to improve themselves on various levels. The Employment Information Handbook (http://www.doc.state.nc.us/Publications/DOL.Exoffender.Handbook.pdf) from the U.S. Department of Labour is a useful resource for any ex-offender. Another good resource from the U.S. Department of Labor is Ready4Reentry Prisoner Reentry Toolkit (http://www.doleta.gov/PRI/PDF/Pritoolkit.pdf). This toolkit provides information for faith-based organizations and other agencies that want to help ex-prisoners get back into society.
Following some of the tips below will help make the transition from prisoner to a free person that much easier. If you are looking for a rental property some of the following will be useful:
- Be realistic in your expectations
- Look for houses rather than apartments
- Be prepared to tell the truth about your conviction if asked
- Do not get upset if questioned about your criminal record or if you get turned down
Likewise, being prepared is the first step towards gaining employment. You need to:
- Apply for jobs that you are able to do
- Prepare a good resume, even if you need to get help to write one
- Check your own criminal history so you are aware of what a potential employer will find
- Be prepared to be honest about your criminal past
- Accept that more than likely you will need to start at the bottom and work your way up
- Dress well when going for a job interview
You can also improve your chances on the outside by checking if you can erase or expunge your record. Many ex-felons have not given thought to this, but depending on the crime and when it took place it is possible. It is also possible to find employment with the federal government even with a felony conviction. This can include a job on cleaning crews or one that involves driving.
A criminal record is an automatic strike against most people, but this is not a reason to give up. While the journey to a normal life after prison can be difficult especially with job and housing discrimination, you can still make it.