Back In To Society

B.I.T.S.

 

         

 

   B.I.T.S.

  ( Back In To Society)

             B.I.T.S. (Back In To Society)

This site is designed to help ex-offenders find the assistance they need to get Back In To Society by means of mutual cooperation from its members.  We ask that if you have any information on programs to help ex-offenders once outside the walls, you please share them with us.  Welcome to our site, our lives, and our hearts.

 

Kevin W. (I.B. Wise) Womble Sr

 

It is a widely known fact that the unemployment rate is the highest it has been for a long long time. Ex offenders make up almost 22% of the population in the United States, we all know that the possibility of an ex offender (regardless of what their crime was) finding a job is about 78-1 so, if we factor the ex offender population in to the national average it is clear that we make up almost 19+% of the unemployment rate countrywide. What this boils down to is simple, it has been proven that not all ex offenders are still thinking crime when they are released and if ex offenders were given more of a chance to correct their lives rather than being labeled (once a criminal always a criminal ) the national rate would drop severely. Common sense tells us that when a man/woman gets home from jail/prison they want to get their life back on the right track and with people holding us back because of this belief that we will just repeat our crime, we will never truly get anywhere. Most people who can’t find work or assistance get desperate for money and end up doing anything (legal or not) to get it. The drug business has grown over the past 20 years to a multibillion dollar a year business and for most people that is easy money, mainly because they don’t think about the consequences just the money and what it will do for them. I don’t condone any criminal act and if I could I would give my last to a man/woman if it would help them to survive but I can’t do this alone, I am barely making it myself but I refuse to let people’s blindness to the facts effect my judgment. I will not go back to prison because my faith tells me that if you believe and pray hard enough you will overcome those difficulties in life. Since nobody has the answer to this problem how about we just work on the suggestions that are offered. We as a nation can overcome this problem and I for one am willing to help any way that I can!

Employers’ willingness to hire

There are a number of laws that govern the employment of people with criminal records. Some of these laws protect ex-offenders from discrimination based on their conviction records and others restrict employers from hiring people with certain types of convictions. While employers are generally not allowed to have blanket bars against hiring people with criminal records, they are permitted to consider the relationship between the conviction record and the job sought. The types of jobs with legal prohibitions against ex-offenders tend to be in the fields of childcare, education, security, nursing and home healthcare, where "vulnerable" populations are involved. You should check with your state’s Attorney General’s office or another legal advisor for more detailed information about whether your state provides any protection to ex-offenders from employment discrimination or if you have questions regarding the application of these principals in a particular case. 

Ex-offenders have no special status when applying for state and federal jobs. The application and selection procedures for state jobs follow state guidelines, and federal jobs follow the rules and guidelines of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) whose Internet address is http://www.opm.gov.

State Jobs

To find out about state jobs contact the Department of Human Resources in the state where you plan to release. You can also find out about state jobs at the Internet website for the state which is http://www.state.__.us. Fill in the blank with the two letter postal code for the state. For example, Virginia would be http://www.stateva.us/. State jobs may also be posted at the local U.S. Employment service office. Their contact information can be found in the blue pages of the telephone book.

Federal Jobs

Most federal jobs are announced by the OPM website at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov.

You can also call the OPM automated telephone system, an interactive voice response telephone system (478) 757-3000 or TDD (478) 744-2299. Job seekers can access current job vacancies, employment information fact sheets, applications, forms, and apply for some jobs. Many federal agencies have job information telephone numbers located in the blue pages of the telephone book. Federal job postings are also available  

from the nearest One-Stop Career Center.

 

Employing Ex-Offenders
FPC Alderson Firecrew

Work opportunities provide hope and a chance for achieving success to newly released Federal ex-offenders. Employers are encouraged to participate in creating opportunities to help individuals become law-abiding, productive citizens. Many ex-offenders are willing to start in minimum wage jobs that offer a future. The benefits of employing ex-offenders include:

Bonding programs:

    UNICOR's Federal Bonding Program Available to eligible Federal ex-offenders.

    Federal Bonding Program, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employment & Training Administration: For ex-offenders without UNICOR work experience. Prospective employer or ex-offender employee may be eligible. Refer to DOL’s Directory of State Coordinators for points of contact to help determine eligibility.

    Note: Some states offer a free service that provides individual fidelity bonds to employers for job applicants with a conviction record. Check with your state's employment service.
    Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC): Gives an immediate contribution to an employer's "bottom line" by providing eligible employers with a Federal tax credit for hiring an ex-offender.

Service to the public: By providing work opportunities, employers help ex-offenders become tax-paying citizens who contribute to the community, and give them a chance to share in the American dream.

Skilled employees: Most ex-offenders have completed programs designed to help them develop the skills needed to achieve success in the "world of work." Many have had employment and training in Federal Prison Industries (tradename: UNICOR), and/or in vocational and occupational training programs. Some have valuable skills and can fill jobs for which skilled workers are hard to find.

 

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 Study Shows Ex-offenders Have Greatly Reduced Employment Rates

In November 2010 the Center for Economic and Policy Research released a study titled “Ex-offenders and the Labor Market,” which found that a felony conviction or imprisonment significantly reduces the ability of ex-offenders to find jobs, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $57 to $65 billion annually in lost economic output.

The study focused on male offenders, since they constitute 90% of people convicted of felonies in the U.S. It is well known that ex-prisoners in general have a more difficult time finding jobs than people without a criminal history. The goals of the study were to quantify the amount of disadvantage caused by a felony conviction and to clarify how much of that employment disadvantage was caused by factors unrelated to a criminal record – such as a lack of education, skills or work history – and how much was due solely to the effect of the conviction and/or incarceration.

The study used government statistics to estimate the 2008 working-age ex-felon population in the U.S. at 12.3 to 13.9 million. Of those, between 5.4 and 6.1 million were former prisoners while the others had felony convictions but had not served time in prison. This means that in 2008 about 1 in 17 working-age adult men was a former prisoner and about 1 in 8 was an ex-felon.

The study noted that the 2008 rates of both violent and property crimes were lower than the rates in 1980. Therefore, the dramatic increase in the ex-offender population since 1980 was not due to an increase in underlying criminal activity. “Instead, dramatic increases in sentencing probabilities and sentence lengths, especially for drug-related offenses, account for both the increase in the incarcerated population and the mushrooming of the ex-offender population,” the report found.

Therefore, “changes in sentencing today can greatly reduce the size of the ex-offender population in the future. The high cost in terms of lost output to the overall economy also suggests the benefits of taking action to reduce the substantial employment barriers facing current ex-offenders. Every indication is that, in the absence of some reform of the criminal justice system, the share of ex-offenders in the working-age population will rise substantially in coming decades.”

On average, former prisoners are far less educated than the rest of the population. In 2008, over 36% of ex-prisoners had not earned a high school diploma or GED compared to around 10% of the general population. Only 11% of former prisoners had taken any college courses compared to almost 60% of the general population.

Further, imprisonment has become racially polarized. In 2008, African-Americans made up around 40% of the prison population but less than 15% of the U.S. population. Latinos were also over-represented, making up over 20% of the prison population but about 15% of the U.S. population. This means that the employment-related effects of incarceration are more pronounced within those minority populations.

Although imprisonment can degrade a worker’s “human capital,” including formal education, work experience or skills such as the ability to relate to people or be punctual, it can also lead to loss of social support networks that can help them find jobs. All of these factors make it more difficult for former prisoners to obtain employment. Research has shown that having a history of incarceration reduces a worker’s chance of being hired by 15 to 30% and reduces the annual number of weeks worked by 6 to 11 weeks, with the effect being more pronounced among minorities and under-educated ex-prisoners.

Research conducted to isolate the effect of a felony conviction on employers’ willingness to hire found that 80 to 90% of employers said they would hire “former welfare recipients, workers with little recent work experience or lengthy unemployment, and other stigmatizing characteristics,” but only around 40% said they would consider hiring job applicants with criminal histories. Even fewer would consider ex-offenders for jobs involving customer service or handling money. This stigmatizing effect was true even when researchers used actors and carefully crafted résumés that eliminated the effect of any other variable other than the sole fact of a prior felony conviction.

Since ex-felons make up 6.6 to 7.4% of the total working-age population, or about 1 in 15 working-age adults, lower employment rates for ex-felons depressed the nation’s employment rate for men by an estimated 1.5 to 1.7% based on a mid-range estimated employment penalty for having a criminal record. For African-American ex-felons the employment rate was decreased by 4.7 to 5.3% while for those without high school diplomas it was decreased by 6.1 to 6.9%. This represented a loss of goods and services that reduced the gross domestic product (GDP) for the U.S. by $57 to $65 billion in 2008.

Unless criminal justice reforms are undertaken, this loss is expected to substantially increase in the future due to higher incarceration rates among younger people. “We incarcerate an astonishing share of non-violent offenders, particularly for drug-related offenses. We have far better ways to handle these kinds of offenses, but so far common sense has not prevailed,” said John Schmitt, a co-author of the study.

Employment problems faced by ex-felons have been recognized by a number of government officials, who are taking steps to try to improve the employability of former prisoners. For example, some cities are holding job fairs exclusively for people with criminal records. Detroit held such an event on October 12, 2011. “A lot of times, folks who come out [of jail] and get roadblock after roadblock and door closed, they give up and some of them re-commit crimes because they feel that’s their only option,” noted Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh. “[W]e feel that population needs just a boost of confidence and some hope that there are employers out there who will give them second chances.”

Other cities and counties are trying to remove unfair barriers to employment for ex-offenders, such as omitting questions about felony convictions from job applications, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently considered this issue. [See: PLN, Sept. 2011, p.32]. On the federal level, two long-standing programs are still available to assist former prisoners in obtaining employment: the Federal Bonding Program and the Work Opportunities Tax Credits for employers.

Sources: “Ex-Offenders and the Labor Market,” Center for Economic and Policy Research (Nov. 2010); www.thegrio.com

 

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