The Common Profile
Most of what the average person expects of the felon is, unfortunately, true. During my time employed at a work release program, the majority of the residents that come through have a common profile. Typically they are under-educated, under-skilled, and usually come from a challenging background either through family problems or even sometimes substance abuse. There are exceptions to this in that highly-educated people, such as doctors and lawyers, have also gone through the system, but for the most part, it is a person with a little bit more then a GED and skills training who joins a work release program during their incarceration.
Although the training does vary between institutions most, if not all, institutions in the federal system put convicts through various life skills training courses. These courses can include doing HVAC, warehousing, food service, and sometimes even library and barber work. The institutions also push formal education, such as obtaining the GED, which ties into allowing convicts to earn "good time," which reduces their overall sentence. Felons coming to the work release have some skills which can easily be carried over into most blue collar jobs. Additionally, halfway houses also either provide or outsource further skills training to reinforce and develop not only the felon’s skill set, but also their resume.
Restrictions to Work
Despite the strong motivation and solid skill set on the part of the felon, there may be some limitations to jobs that hire felons. One of the largest restrictions is usually tied to what their crime was. People convicted of computer crimes may be restricted from using computers in an unsupervised manner. People convicted of fraud or various financial crimes may be prohibited from handling financial information. The restrictions are typically put in place by the courts as a condition of probation, which is observed during their time at the halfway house.
In addition to this requirement, the Bureau of Prisons also places restrictions on work felons can do. These limitations are typically designed to protect not only the public, but also to ensure the felons are not placed in a situation that may be counter productive to their re-entry into society.
Regardless, when a felon enters into employment, they are required to make known to the employer what they can or cannot do, and this is a requirement that the halfway house is required to monitor and report any perceived violation.
The Employment Entry Level
As previously pointed out, the average felon is typically under-educated, under-skilled, and has very limited work experience. This, however, should not say anything about their ability or desire to work.
Anytime a felon is reentering society and is able to obtain any type of job, it is a positive step for assisting them to ensure a smoother transition, as well as reduce the risk of recidivism. The typical felon is usually best recommended for entry-level skilled labor however, again, there is always exception to the rule. Many felons did have a job prior to incarceration and would be qualified for higher-level jobs they apply for, provided the employer is willing to hire them.
Jumping the “HR Hurdle”
The largest barricade to finding jobs that hire convicted felons is typically just the fact that the individual has a criminal history. True, the word “felony” is a very intimidating and often a giant red flag to potential employers. The average person who has never had contact with a felon or has even never seen a prison, often get ideas of individuals covered in tattoos and piercings who grew up in lower class neighborhoods riddled with crime. This is a massive exaggeration of what the typical felon reentering society looks like.
Although employers do very much have the right to refuse to hire convicted felons, they’re losing all the potential benefits associated with hiring a felon. In a previous entry on hiring felons, I pointed out benefits such as a potential tax break, free bonding from the state, the implied loyalty of the felon to their first employer in years, and even the fact that the employer themselves is assisting in reducing the recidivism rate of felons coming back into the community.
Keep It In Perspective
Criminals are nothing more than people who have made a large mistake in their life, and even after paying their debt to society, they have the unfortunate issue of carrying around a label which continues to punish them for the rest of their life.
Although the justice system is designed to punish and rehabilitate, the rehabilitation is something that requires more than a GED program and a few skills courses. It requires the assistance of communities and employers.
Felons are capable of doing almost any type of work that an employer could have, it only requires employers to see beyond the label and offer up a chance for work to a person coming back into society after potentially decades of being incarcerated. Halfway houses are designed to work with employers to ensure that employment moves without a hiccup, and will be there to ensure everything goes well.
More from Compensation Today:
Are you wasting company time in your meetings? Calculate the cost of your meetings with PayScale’s Meeting Miser.
Do you have a topic you would like Compensation Today to cover? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Resources from PayScale: