Saturday, March 21, 2015

Finding a Job After a Felony Conviction

For hundreds of thousands of Americans, this experience is all too common: You fill out job application after job application and never hear a word back. In today's impacted labor market, jobs can be hard to come by for just about anyone. But it's even harder for those who have to check the box indicating they've been convicted of committing a crime. At that point, no matter your skills, relevant experience, passion and character, your résumé is almost guaranteed to be tossed aside by a significant number of potential employers. Some small businesses, however, are bucking that trend. In fact, they actually go out of their way to hire ex-convicts. And it's paying off. One obvious advantage to hiring ex-convicts is the potential tax incentives. A company can be eligible for a few thousand dollars in annual tax credits through the Work Opportunity Online Tax Credit if an employee was convicted of a felony and hired within a year of release from prison. There's also Federal Bonding Program money distributed by each state, which insures an employer against potential theft for the first six months an ex-convict is on the job. Giving ex-convicts opportunities can also be an inspiring way to give back to the community and contribute to social change. More than 650,000 U.S. prisoners are released each year. Two-thirds of them are arrested again within three years, according to the National Institute of Justice. Giving former inmates access to steady jobs is a proven factor in reducing the recidivism rate. Taking a chance on ex-convicts can also be a boon to the entire small business landscape. Helping employees learn how a small business works opens other doors for them. For motivated, business-minded ex-convicts who can swing it, opening companies of their own is an attractive way to avoid spending a lifetime explaining away a previous incarceration to potential employers. With years of real-world experience and the help of dedicated resources like The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, hard workers can strive to shed the "felon" label and start ventures of their own. In turn, they'll create more jobs and boost the economy. But there's another reason to take on ex-convicts, one that's more persuasive than any financial gain or community benefit. Simply put, many small information technology business owners say ex-convicts make good workers. Take organic bread company Dave's Killer Bread, which employs about 100 ex-convicts. "Overall the ex-felons' performance rating is slightly higher than non-felons," CEO John Tucker told Fast Company. "Most people think it's the opposite: that the ex-felons are a challenge, are difficult. That is simply not the case." In Hawaii, an agricultural park manager took a chance on an ex-convict after struggling to find other laborers. "He has just been a model worker," manager Wayne Ogasawara told Hawaii Business. "I just can't believe how a man who has wasted 20 years of his life can be doing what he's doing now. He's punctual, listens to instructions — you'd be surprised how many young guys don't have any listening skill. Since then, I've taken on three more men out of the prison system and I've had nothing but good luck." The gesture of offering an ex-convict his first job out of prison often means the recipient is grateful to be employed and eager to work hard. Many ex-convicts have probation restrictions (meaning there's an officer to hold them accountable), get to work on time, and are focused on learning new skills. There are serious consequences for those who don't stay out of trouble, and they know it. Better yet, these punctual, motivated individuals are routinely passed over in the job search without even a second glance. Acquiring new talent hidden in plain sight is a good way to get a leg up on competitors. Of course, it seems easier to take the safe road and pass over ex-convicts. But no hire — with or without a prison record — is totally risk-free. Saying yes to an ex-convict is an opportunity to show people internally and externally you're the kind of manager who isn't afraid to take chances on people, and improve your business in the process.

Finding Housing After a Felony Conviction

Many people who have served time for various crimes have difficulty adjusting to life after being released. In many cases, there is difficulty interacting with people, especially if they have been in prison for years. Some former convicts are lucky enough to be able to live with family members, others are not so lucky. Others prefer to remain independent as they start life after serving their sentences. Unfortunately, for many former prisoners, it is difficult to find suitable housing. Some people are reluctant to rent houses to former felons. Depending on the type of crime they were locked away for, even if they find housing, their neighbours may be less than welcoming. This is one reason why some members of the public are supportive of the idea of housing assistance for felons.  Once they are situated, ex-cons can consider going back to school online. Some of the most common programs that are offering housing assistance for felons are: Section 8 Housing This frequently changed section of the Housing Act provides assistance with rent payments to private landlords. This benefit is for low-income earners as well as felons. As one would expect, there is a waiting list for this benefit. In fact, in some areas, the authorities have stopped accepting new applications. With this kind of demand, it is easy to see that someone with a conviction would have a difficult time getting approval. For a felon to benefit from Section 8 Housing, the following as to be true: When the crime/felony was committed The type of felony The following felons are not able to benefit under Section 8: Sex offenders Drug traffickers Certain categories of fraud Commit violent crimes Housing authorities in each state also have different set of rules for granting assistance under Section 8 to felons. In some cases, regardless of the nature of the felony, the applicant will not be considered unless a specified number of years have passed. Housing Grants Former felons are able to apply for housing grants as another means of finding affordable housing. In some states, there are grants set up by charitable organizations to help convicted felons get back on their feet. One example of this is the work of Catholic Charities that assist former felons in a number of ways. Other churches also have their own programs for assisting former inmates. Some housing grants for felons also exist in the form of federal aid, although getting approval can sometimes be challenging. Also due to the number of applications, response time is slow. A good place to get information on housing help for felons is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While HUD does not provide grants, it can point felons in the right direction. Programs under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act assist people with low income to find suitable housing. A number of recipients of these benefits were formerly homeless, or had metal health or drug abuse issues. These benefits may also extend to some people with criminal convictions, but with some conditions such as: Applicants who were not homeless before they were convicted may be denied Sex offenders will not be considered Applicants whose source of funding can be linked to their criminal past may also be denied Halfway Houses Many people end up in halfway houses, also called transitional houses after serving time in prison. This provides accommodation and allows the former inmate to adjust to being in back in society. These housing options are supported by subsidies, so there is no need to worry about rent payments. This is helpful to former inmates, especially if they do not have the resources to pay rent on a regular basis. Some felons are released into a halfway house immediately after being released due to the terms of their parole. Halfway houses operated in a structured way and occupants have to follow have to follow the rules for living there. They will be assigned duties, and will be subjected to unscheduled checks of their rooms to ensure that there is no contraband. Despite the rules, the environment itself is far less rigid than prison, and tenants have more freedom than they did while incarcerated. Felons with recent convictions or who were recently released from prison, tend to have the harder time finding housing when released. For this reason, some parolees ask their parole officers for help in finding agencies that offer housing assistance. In fact, some parole officers will assist parolees with finding suitable housing where possible. Any former felon who is applying for housing assistance or trying to rent property should be honest about their conviction. This will prevent problems later on if the renter finds out that you lied about your criminal history. If you have a felony conviction, it is good to take references when you are going to look for somewhere to rent. This will greatly improve your chances of success.

Arizona Felons Face Problems After Prison

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A felony conviction usually doesn't mean a person spends the rest of his life in prison. In fact, most convicted felons leave prison, go home and try to start over. But that conviction can haunt them as they try to find a job and a place to live. That's why a coalition has formed to help people with felony convictions get their rights back. The Rights Restoration Project holds a free workshop every four months or so in the Pima County Public Defenders office building. People come to try to find ways to better their lives, get a better job or even get a job at all. These people want a second chance. Many have been to prison once and intend to never go back. They have federal or Arizona convictions. Volunteers help them fill out paperwork so they can try to get their rights restored as a way to help them stay on the right path and not have to resort to crime to make a living or try to provide for their families. Many of the former criminals do have families they are trying to support and fines they are trying to pay off. Some have jobs but are hoping to get better ones. “It's terrible. It's hard. Not even apartment complexes will take you in if they know you have a felony. Jobs, especially. It's just so hard just to find any job and even the lowest pay jobs. They ask for so much and I have a GED,” said Yolanda Poblete. “Ideally, if we can help people to get their rights restored and to have the conviction set aside, maybe an employer will be more forgiving, maybe an apartment renter will be more forgiving and help people to get, basically, a fresh start,” Pima County Assistant Public Defender Marla Rapaport said.

Finding a home after prison tough for released felons

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Stacie Schroder's search for a home began the day she regained her freedom. Finding an apartment can be a complicated, time-consuming process for anyone. Schroder didn't expect her search to be easy, but she also wasn't prepared for the months of dead ends, denials and desperation that would come to define her housing search. Schroder spent almost four years in prison after a 2007 arrest on drug-related charges. After prison, she learned that finding a place to live for an ex-convict is one of the biggest barriers to getting back on your feet. "Trying to find a landlord that takes felons is hard," Schroder said. Under the law, landlords are free to discriminate against people with criminal records. A popular police-sponsored rental housing program in Sioux Falls and other cities encourages property managers to reject renters with recent criminal histories. While criminal background checks by landlords might deter crime on their properties and reassure tenants, they pose a major barrier for people who have made mistakes, served their time and are trying to get a fresh start on life. People coming out of prison often depend on a lucky break from a relative or Good Samaritan, or else face turning to the same people whose influence steered them to crime in the first place. "It's a vicious circle. They see no light, no hope and they fall into the same circle, again," said Paul Flogstad, Sioux Falls' fair housing ombudsman. The limited housing options for people with felony records raises questions about the community's ability to rehabilitate criminals and get them off a path that leads back to an overcrowded corrections system. "It's just nearly impossible in this town with a felony to get housing," said Melanie Bliss of the Sioux Empire Homeless Coalition. "Being a felon or sex offender are serious barriers for people for the rest of their lives." Calvin Dunham knows he caught a lucky break. Dunham was serving a three-year prison sentence for selling prescription pills when he met his future boss and landlord at Bible study in the Minnehaha County prison. Three days after his release from prison, Dunham had an interview for a job fixing up properties. He got the job. His new boss then offered him a place to rent after Dunham's five-month stay at a halfway home. "I'm just highly blessed," Dunham said. "Society owes us nothing but maybe a chance. I think everyone deserves a second chance if they are changing." TENANTS FEEL SAFE Property managers, though, have real incentives for not giving people such as Dunham a second chance. More than 200 property managers in Sioux Falls, including some of the city's largest housing companies, now participate in the city's crime-free housing program, which offers marketing materials and police consultations to participants who agree to certain practices. They include: • Performing background checks on all applicants. • Denying rental to anyone on the sex-offender registry or anyone with an assault or drug conviction in the past five years. • Installing security features such as deadbolts, peep holes that provide 180-degree views, lift and slide protection on windows and patio doors, and adequate lighting in hallways and parking lots. "It's a proven program; it's a good program," said Flogstad, the city's fair housing ombudsman. It's a marketing tool for landlords, and for tenants it brings a peace of mind that their neighbor isn't a sex offender or drug dealer. But it also makes it difficult for people such as Dunham to find a home after prison, Flogstad said. Discrimination still would exist, even if the crime-free program didn't. Sioux Falls police Officer Jim Larson, who oversees the crime-free housing program in the city, said people with criminal records are not a protected class when it comes to housing discrimination, so landlords can freely refuse to rent to any ex-convict. "A landlord, a managing company or an owner has the right to refuse anyone for any reason except for reasons like sexual orientation, creed and color, as long as they're consistent with it," Larson said. Sioux Falls adopted the Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program in March 1997. The program is based on a national program that originated in Mesa, Ariz., in 1991. Since then, it's spread to about 2,000 cities in 48 states, five Canadian provinces, England, Nigeria and Puerto Rico. Lloyd Cos., one the largest apartment companies in Sioux Falls, is a member of the crime-free housing program. Nicholas Blau, regional manager, said one of the first questions prospective renters ask is whether they are members of the crime-free program. Blau said the companies follow the minimum requirements of the crime-free housing program but also impose further restrictions against those with felonies on their criminal records. "The general rule we use is any felony record of criminal action which would adversely affect the health, safety and welfare of residents is grounds for denial," Blau said. HELP FOR EX-CONVICTS Instead of Craigslist or the classifieds, people with criminal records often need to look to people such as Jeff Haverhals. He is director of Kingdom Boundaries Prison Aftercare, the ministry that connected Dunham to his future boss and landlord as he was transitioning from prison. Haverhals spent years interacting with convicts behind prison walls through a mentorship reviews program. It gave him an intimate view of the struggles convicts face once they leave prison. For the past four years, he has worked with ex-convicts to reintegrate into society. "A lot of guys don't have a lot of hope. They are scared. They don't have anybody to help them. They feel stuck," he said. "When people get stressed, they go back to doing what they were doing that got them in trouble in the first place." At the moment, he is working with six people to help them find a place to live, get a job and get back on their feet. He admits sometimes it doesn't work out the way he hopes — leaving him feeling like a failure. But that comes with dealing with human nature and sin, he said. "What hurts the most is when we help and help and help and they want to go back to that life and end up back in jail," Haverhals said. Another program that helps ex-convicts transition into housing after prison is the Glory House, one of the few programs of its kind. Executive Director Dave Johnson said their work helps not only those in need of a second chance but also the community. "The reality is that for people coming out of the correction system, 96 percent of them are going to come out in the community and they will be our neighbors," Johnson said. "I'd rather have them know the basics on how they live so they don't struggle." Schroder stayed at the Glory House in Sioux Falls after her release from prison in 2011. She said they worked hard to find her a place to live, but it it was tough to find anyone who would look past the felonies on her record, a reminder of her old self. "People change," said Schroder, who is now an engineering supervisor at a manufacturing plant. "People have the ability to be better, productive members of society. God forgives us, so why can't everyone else." After more than half a year of searching, Schroder finally found a sympathetic landlord in Tea, S.D., who, after hearing her story, was willing to lease an apartment to her. "A lot of people don't give you that chance," Schroder said. "A lot of people think that because you're felons you're a bad person. That's not the case. People make mistakes."

Friday, March 20, 2015

At People Corporation we realize that some mistakes can have an effect that can last a lifetime.  How do we know? 

We've been there. 

This website is dedicated to showing those who may have committed crimes in the past what they can do to better their lives.  "Just get a job" isn't quite that simple.  You've got to have perseverance.  You need to have tact.  You may need some advice. 

We are going to share with you the best ways to get ahead in life after recovering from one or many mistakes.  Our content will focus on how people with criminal records can earn a living.