Specialize in helping former prisoners re-enter the workforce.
A good job is essential to an ex-prisoner’s successful return to the community. Studies show that holding a legitimate job lessens the chances of re-offending. The higher the wages, the lower the odds a returning prisoner will become involved in another crime.
Since employment is so essential for successful reentry, it is troubling that most people get little or no job skill training in prison and few have a job lined up when they leave prison. Even if they held a job before incarceration, returning prisoners are confronted with many barriers to employment:
- Poor job skills
- Low education levels
- Unstable family situations
- Histories of substance, physical, or emotional abuse
- Medical and mental health issues
- Social stigma of being an “ex-con”
Many states have laws that prevent ex-prisoners from holding jobs in certain places such as schools, nursing homes, and hospitals. Even more alarming is the very real bias employers have against hiring anyone with a criminal background. However, studies show that employers are much more likely to hire former prisoners who are part of a structured system of oversight and monitoring.
There is a great need for mentors to serve as job/career coaches to ex-prisoners. Here are some ways you can help:
- Be a role model, showing mentees what it looks like to be a responsible employee.
- Help identify mentees’ skills and abilities so they can seek appropriate jobs.
- Teach mentees what an employer will expect of them, such as being on time, putting in a good day’s work, having a good attitude, and being trustworthy.
- Educate them on how to conduct a job search and help them create daily lists of things to do.
- Provide resources such as access to a computer for writing a resume, putting in job applications, and communicating with perspective employers.
- Teach mentees where to learn about job openings and help them overcome the fear of rejection.
- Offer rides or bus passes to get to job interviews and appointments.
- Role play ways to tell employers about their criminal background and their determination to make a new life.
- Once the mentee gets a job, let the employer know you are available to help if any problems arise.
- Teach mentees how to relate to customers and co-workers, plus how to show “good manners” in the workplace.
- Provide feedback and coaching as your mentee adjusts to the new job and meets new challenges.
Many ex-prisoners have never had someone in their lives who held a steady job. They have no model for being a good employee. As a job/career mentor, you will stand in the gap providing the critical link of accountability and wise counsel as the ex-prisoner becomes a responsible employee.
To get more information about the needs in your area for job/career coaching mentors, call 800-251-7411 to contact local Prison Fellowship staff. Or fill out our online interest form by clicking here.
Excerpted from When Prisoners Return, by Pat Nolan, former president of Justice Fellowship