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Would You Hire a Felon?

Felon Employment: Ways to Encourage Success

As discussed in previous articles, it’s no mystery that employers are often hesitant to hire convicted felons. A felony is essentially the modern day scarlet letter when it comes to open doors for employment and various other aspects of life.

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The unfortunate reality in all of this is that most hiring professionals have little to no exposure to the criminal justice system and its process. Therefore, even after a felon has paid their price to society, they continually pay in the form of blocked opportunities and so forth. There are, however, many advantages for employers to becoming “felon friendly,” and also reasons to remember why employing felons might not be such a bad thing.

Substance Free

Generally, as a condition of felons re-entering society, whether they go through a work release facility or enter directly on probation, random drug testing and abstaining from alcohol are conditions of their time following prison. Drug and alcohol abuse is typically a concern for many employers, especially organizations that employee a lot of blue-collar worker dealing in manual labor or heavy equipment operation.

Probation and work release organizations provide for the prevention of substance abuse. Any felons who are found violating the term of their supervision are typically returned to incarceration on either a violation of conditions by the Bureau of Prisons or a probation violation. Although felons typically spend about six months in a work release environment, if they are ordered into probation, it can range anywhere from three to ten years, usually.

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Additional Oversight

In addition to random drug and alcohol testing, felons who are on probation or work release status typically have an individual assigned to monitor their progress while reentering the community. When a felon obtains a job, often times the person responsible for their oversight will meet with the employer for several reasons.

The first and most obvious reason is to ensure that the employer is aware of the crime the felon was convicted of. In addition to certain restrictions placed on the felon, it is also required that they disclose, by time of hire, what the nature of their felony was. The supervisory personnel will follow up only to ensure that the employer understands what the individual was convicted of.

Following that, the probation or work release personnel will make regular contact with the employer to ensure that the felon is performing to a satisfactory standard. This being said, obviously the intent is to be as unobtrusive as possible. Failure of felons to retain jobs due to negligence or even being fired will sometimes result in the possibility of re-incarceration. Based on personal experience, the majority of felons who obtain work do a considerably great job in fulfilling the employer’s expectations, most likely in part due to this additional oversight.

Being “Felon Friendly”

Employers that rely a lot on entry-level, manual labor benefit greatly from being felon-friendly. For the supervisory organizations, such as work releases or probation offices, finding an employer that has a large need for employees that are classified as entry-level or seasonal provides a perfect funnel for felons that may be releasing from institutions with low levels of job skills or experience.

For example, if an organization that primarily utilizes an assembly line process to produce their product experiences a surge in business, work releases will often refer any felons who are suitable for these positions if they are contacted for quickly-needed employees. In a very unusual way, work releases can operate almost as temp agencies, however, the bonus is that there is no fee associated with the referrals.

Support The Community

As pointed out in previous articles, employers can gain many benefits from employing felons. These benefits include a possible tax credit which stacks with each felon hired and free bonding from the state in which the employer is based. There are also the potential bragging rights to point out that felons who obtain employment generally are less likely to return to a life of crime, as crime is typically fueled by the need for money.

It’s important for employers, or anyone for that matter, to understand that the only thing that delineates a felon from a “Regular Joe” is merely the commission of a crime. Not that all felons will come from an institution with no intent to recommit, those employers who are willing to take a chance to hire a felon are helping their community by providing additional support structures for an individual who typically has little coming out of prison.

For hiring managers who are new to this issue, the next time you receive an application where an applicant marks “Yes” in the "Commission of a felony" box, it might be worth actually interviewing the person and finding out the details behind their crime. Most people (including myself) were surprised to know what felons have to say about what is on their record.

In addition to understanding a subculture of American society, in hiring a felon your organization will not only reap the benefits of tax credits, insurance, and the potential pipeline of labor, your organization will also have the ability to say it supports the rehabilitative process of the criminal justice system. Reducing the dependence on tax payer support to criminal justice, as well as providing humanitarian support to those in need of it.


Donald Nickels

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Thank you for your article. I am doing a paper on convicted felons needing more opportunities for employment and education and I found this to be an extremely helpful point of view. Besides that, I am also a convicted felon myself. After reading this article I feel surprisingly more confident checking the box. My story is an extraordinary one, and I am always afraid of being judged by my past. My biggest fear is that places that I apply to will overlook who I have become, today because it is not “appropriate” to hire people with criminal records. It would… Read more »

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