It’s hard to get a job when you have a criminal record. Period.
But sometimes the right kind of coaching … and the right kind of employer … can make all the difference.
The New York Times ran a piece last week about a federal court program in Missouri that is actually having success finding good jobs for ex-prisoners, and helping them keep those jobs. Compared to other reentry programs out there, the Eastern District of Missouri’s prison-to-work program is placing high numbers of returning citizens, and keeping people out of trouble. Over the past several years, about 95 percent of those who go through the program have jobs, and recidivism is around 15 percent, compared to 38 percent nationally.
The guy who heads the program—Scott Anders, a federal probation officer—realized that there are plenty of groups out there equipping former prisoners with “soft skills” like interview etiquette and resume writing. But when you’re dealing with an economy as tough as ours and a checked box on an application form already sets you at the bottom of a list, no amount of interview skills will cut it.
The article quotes Devah Pager, a Harvard sociologist, who says that most prison-to-work programs are “desperately inadequate,” especially since they don’t often have relationships with employers who are willing to provide jobs to those with a record.
In contrast, Anders spends much of his time helping prisoners become truly employable; equipping them with the skills and attitudes that will make companies take a second look. And working hard to recruit employers willing to hire ex-prisoners. Although Anders has found plenty who won’t take the chance, many do.
Greg Gooch of S&J Potashnick Transportation Inc. in Sikeston, Mo., said that ex-prisoners are often the kinds of candidates he’s looking for to drive his trucks.
“We’d almost rather have them than some that’s never done anything, never had a job,” Mr. Gooch said. “They don’t want to go back to where they were.”