Professionals who work with ex-offenders say that jobs are the key to reducing recidivism. Yet, finding a job--already a difficult process for many--is even more challenging for ex-offenders. In addition to financial barriers, transporation issues, and mental and physical health concerns, ex-offenders face the stigma of their criminal records and employers who often believe they are too risky to hire.
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October 24, 2007
Indianapolis, IN - Each year, state and federal prisons release more than 600,000 offenders back into society. National statistics indicate that within just three years of their release more than two-thirds of them will be arrested again and more than half will be back behind bars.
The ex-offenders most likely to stay out of prison and make a new lifestyle for themselves are the ones who quickly find steady employment after their release, according to Maurice Stevens and Michael Farr, co-authors of the newly released Quick Job Search for Ex-Offenders.
Too often, however, ex-offenders struggle to find employment because of the unique barriers they face in the job search. Everything from limited work experience and education to low self esteem and physical and mental problems make it increasingly more difficult for ex-offenders to prove their worth to an employer. Yet, the most significant hurdle of all is overcoming employers' unwillingness to hire someone with a criminal record.
"Truthfully, most employers will be reluctant to hire an ex-offender unless that person can convince them that he or she is worth the risk," say Stevens and Farr. "That's why the interview is an ex-offender's best chance to convince an employer that they have the skills needed to do the job, are eager to learn new skills, and are ready to become a dependable employee."
In the Quick Job Search for Ex-Offenders, Stevens and Farr outline how ex-offenders can address their criminal record in an interview, without being dishonest or intensifying an awkward conversation. Their tips include the following:
- Be honest about the past. Ex-offenders should take responsibility for their actions and keep their explanation in legal terms whenever possible. For example, say "I committed a felony four," instead of "I was convicted of domestic violence."
- Express remorse for the crime, but do not dwell on the past. Concentrate on the positives, not the negatives.
- Discuss training or education received during incarceration. Ex-offenders who have completed their GED, a construction apprenticeship program, or learned skills through a work release program should point out how these things have made them a better worker.
- Emphasize a desire to make a new start. Share short- and long-term goals to show the employer an eagerness to move forward. Most importantly, ex-offenders should specify life changes they've made to become more reliable and dependable workers.
"It's essential to convince the employer that your criminal record or personal situation will not interfere with your work life," say Stevens and Farr. "Convince the employer that you should be hired on the basis of your skills and your attitude, not your past."
Quick Job Search for Ex-Offenders is available from the publisher (www.jist.com or 1.800.648.JIST). To speak with the authors, contact Natalie Ostrom.
JIST, America's Career Publisher, is a division of EMC/Paradigm Publishing and is the leading publisher of job search, career, occupational information, life skills and character education books, workbooks, assessments, videos and software.