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Returning Citizens

Anyone with a criminal record has known the anguish and frustration of trying to find a job upon release from imprisonment.  Is justice truly served by employment discrimination against returning citizens. The term “Returning Citizen,” is a positive way of describing an individual released from prison. The use of the labels, ex-felon or ex-offender, have  created a negative, hostile, and discriminating environment for the returning citizen. Americans are astonished at our high recidivism rates without considering their connection to the high unemployment rates for our returning citizens. An employed individual is usually less likely to commit another offense.

The returning citizen fills out the job application which demands information about a criminal record. After submitting the application, the returning citizen is not called for a job interview despite having the required qualifications. The potential employer’s mind has closed to any thought of an interview despite the applicant’s qualifications and his eagerness to work. The District of Columbia almost adopted a credible “Returning Citizens Anti-Discrimination Act.” This act would have prohibited an employer from asking questions about a prior record until a provisional job offer was offered to the applicant. An employer after receiving the information at that point could refuse to hire based upon the prior criminal record, if there was a “relevant relationship” between the proposed job and the prior record. This act  would result in many more interviews that are prevented by disclosing the applicant’s record in a pre-interview questionnaire.

There is hope since other cities such as Boston and San Francisco, have adopted such reforms. The adoption of such reforms would increase job interviews and employment for the returning citizens and in the end would reduce the abnormal high recidivism rates in the United States.

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4 Responses to Returning Citizens

  1. PrisonPath February 18, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    I read your essay with deep interest. And, I preface my reply with: I understand many of the re-entry issues. I had a case load of 100% convicted felons and I had good outcomes with their employment statistics.

    My focus is VERY narrow. My current case load is 100% transitioning Veterans. They are also called ” returning citizens”.

    Employers get really upset with me if I “pitch” a re-entry citizen as a “returning citizen”.
    By Cindy

  2. PrisonPath February 18, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    Why do we have to give them a name at all? I am a returning citizen when I come back from a vacation in Europe or anywhere out of the country. Why can’t a person with a background just be a human person? If they are looking for work they are a job seeker!! If they are planning to buy a home they are a home buyer. Just like any other human! I agree that we should not “brand” someone as an ex-offender etc. it just keeps this human looking backwards and we all know that our destiny is not looking back, but looking forward. When I am working with a “job seeker” they are someone who has come to me who has skills, talents and abilities and I can teach them how to “sell” those skills, talents and abilities in an interview. I can also show them the best way to fill out an employment application without lying as the goal is to get in front of the employer. Let’s ban the box – give them all an equal playing field in every state with every employer – at least then they won’t be discriminated against before they even have an opportunity to interview.
    By Susan

  3. PrisonPath February 18, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    I agree with you both. Unfortunately many people who do the hiring have boxes to check about the types of people they hire. So people get put in those boxes. Sometimes its a good thing because it makes them hire more people in a certain category while other times its a bad practice. If an employer has a contract with the federal government in the US, they will have hiring goals for minorities, women, veterans and people with disabilities. Unfortunately people in reentry are not one of the goals. These goals are monitored by the Office of Federal Compliance Programs which is in the Department of Labor. If you are an employment program you should find your Department of Labor Regional Office and get a contact in the OFCCP for your area and let them know you can supply these folks. Since so many people in reentry fit into these other categories it can open some doors for them too. While I hate boxes, these type of boxes can get people hired.
    By Larry

  4. PrisonPath February 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    My advice is put the felony mentality out of your mind. You may be better off working for yourself, start a business, go back to school, get into something from the ground up that you love to do. It took me getting a felony and reforming myself to be successful. Even people with a spotless record end up getting job work all their lives and when it is over all they did was work, day in and day out making someone else money. Getting backed into a corner like myself and others can put a chip on your shoulder to go the extra mile or 100 for success. Don’t take No for an answer, get rid of the words impossible or you can’t do that. Stop listening to the ones going nowhere and look at the small percent that make the most money. It will be hard and at times frustrating but don’t give up. We are all just people. God loves you, all things are possible through Christ!
    By Nathan

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