As Duwe and Clark (2017) found, one of the most important predictors of whether or not an ex-offender will commit a new crime is his or her employment status.
More specifically, being employed greatly reduces recidivism while also boosting social ties, improving one’s financial situation, and providing opportunities for further education and training.
Unfortunately, ex-offenders might find that they don’t qualify for certain jobs because of their criminal record. Additionally, in many cases, parolees face discrimination due to the stigma associated with having been in prison.
But just because finding a job can be difficult doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. With the right approach, you can find options for working after prison that allow you to provide for yourself, your family, and prepare you for the future.
Let’s explore six tips for finding a job after being released from jail.
Learn Which Jobs are Off-Limits
In some states, you can be barred from working in certain jobs depending on what your conviction is.
For example, in Minnesota, people whose convictions were related to firearms cannot get a job in security or law enforcement. Likewise, if your conviction is related to money, you can be forbidden from working in a bank.
By knowing what jobs you can’t have with your criminal conviction, you can spend your time searching for jobs that are still open to you.
Cast a Wide Net
In many cases, working after prison depends on how hard you look for employment – and what kinds of jobs you seek out.
If you had a job before you went to prison, looking for similar jobs when you get out is a good idea because you can use your experience in the field to show your worth as a potential employee.
At the same time, don’t pigeonhole yourself into one kind of job. By applying for many different jobs – and many different kinds of jobs – you increase the likelihood of matching with an employer that will hire you.
Look for a “Transition Job”
The chances are good that your first experience working after prison will not be your dream job, and that’s okay.
Your first job can be thought of as a transition job, or the one you hold down while you make the move from being a prisoner to being a free citizen once again.
This job is what helps you get back on your feet financially, helps integrate you back into society, and gives you a chance to demonstrate that you are a capable, trustworthy, and dependable employee.
What’s more, these types of jobs can serve as stepping stones to higher-paying positions with more responsibilities. For example, you might start out as a dishwasher at a restaurant, then move up to line cook, then sous chef, and, finally, to chef.
Don’t Give Up
For many parolees, securing employment is a condition of release. But some parolees face rejection after rejection when applying for jobs, which can be extremely discouraging.
According to Ray, Grommon, and Rydberg (2016), 70 percent of ex-offenders experience difficulty getting a job anywhere from two to eight months after their release. Furthermore, ex-offenders have a lower lifetime employment rate than people that have never been to prison.
Despite this, it’s important not to give up and be in it for the long haul. There will be more jobs available and more opportunities to find employment if you just keep looking. Make finding a job your job!
Many government agencies can assist you in your job search. Additionally, private organizations and charities often have outreach programs to ex-offenders that can help you find employment.
In Wyoming, the Department of Workforce Services should be one of the first places you visit. You can find resources for employment and training, inquire about programs for veterans, and conduct detailed job searches, just to name a few.
Goodwill is an organization well known for helping ex-offenders re-enter society. Depending on the specific location, Goodwill might provide anything from business clothing for interviews to help writing a resume, as well as job skills development.
Start Your Own Business
Since finding a job after being released from jail can be a difficult task, why not create your own job by starting your own business?
Starting a business requires a certain set of skills and dedication, but if you possess the skills and desire to be your own boss, you can utilize a wide range of support programs to help you meet your goal.
Though not specifically for ex-offenders, the Small Business Administration Microloan Program is available to help you get funds to start your business. You can get up to $50,000 if approved, though the average loan is $13,000.
Another resource to consult is Inmates to Entrepreneurs. This organization offers free online courses that help you learn how to start, run, and grow a business over the long-term.
Of course, if you need to develop skills and get more education before starting your own business, you can go back to school. Use the Federal Student Aid website to inquire about loan opportunities for you.
Duwe, G. & Clark, V.A. (2017). Nothing will work unless you did: The predictors of postprison employment. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 44(5), 657-677. DOI: 10.1177/0093854816689104
Ray, B., Grommon, E., & Rydberg, J. (2016). Anticipated stigma and defensive individualism during postincarceration job searching. Sociological Inquiry, 86(3), 348-371. DOI: 10.1111/soin.12124
Sean Jackson April 2020
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