Resources for Finding Employment after Serving Time in Prison
For some, finding employment after serving time is extremely challenging. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal laws don’t prohibit potential employers from asking about arrests and convictions. However, it’s unlawful to use criminality as the primary reason not to hire you. Several state laws do limit or prohibit what prospective employers may ask, and in some states, there are protections on what an applicant is required to report.
A criminal conviction sounds like a tough thing for job-seekers to overcome, but all is not lost. There are multiple avenues you can take to put you on the road to a steady, secure job.
As a way of getting started, identify what you’re good at and then work from there. It might not make much sense for someone with a background in retail to seek employment as a deckhand on a barge. If you’ve got training as a welder, check in with human resources departments of local shipyards and industrial companies to see if they have any personnel needs. Or, perhaps, you’ve got skills as an auto mechanic. Try the dealerships and repair shops. Seek to match your skills and abilities to potential job openings and you might have a better chance of landing work.
At the same time, it’s important to be realistic. As someone convicted of a felony (or a serious misdemeanor), you might end up having to take a job you feel is beneath your abilities. Remember that work – any type of legitimate work – is important toward returning to the road to prosperity.
Here are a few resources which may aid you in your quest for employment:
- Prisonfellowship.com: This website provides advice and various types of courses for former inmates seeking employment. Call (800) 251-7411 for more information.
- Defyventures.org: This is a service that provides rigorous entrepreneurial training for felony convicts. A modest tuition fee is involved. Basically, this company has established a training program that will help you to start your own business or service.
- Your local church: In and around New Orleans and South Louisiana, church networks have been established to assist job-seekers and others in need. See if you can establish a rapport with a minister in the neighborhood and ask them whether they know where you can turn for help. Chances are, they do. Be honest about your background.
- Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana: Goodwill not only serves people with disabilities, low incomes and other disadvantages, it sometimes hires them. The money may not be great, but working for Goodwill would be something to do while keeping an eye out for something better. Call (504) 456-2622 to see if they have any needs.
- Construction companies: If you have solid skills related to carpentry, plumbing and the like, construction companies may give you a shot without even inquiring about your background. Websites such as Craigslist, Indeed, Monster and CareerBuilder are always running advertisements from construction firms seeking day laborers. More often than not, they don’t ask questions about your past: They simply need people who know their way with a hammer, saw, drill or paintbrush. The Louisiana Association of General Contractors might be a place to start: (504) 344-0432. Many such companies participate in federal bonding programs that encourage them to hire former inmates in exchange for certain government incentives.
- V.O.T.E. – Voice Of The Ex-Offender: VOICE OF THE EX-OFFENDER (VOTE) is a grassroots, membership-based organization that builds the political and economic power of people most critically impacted by the criminal justice system, especially formerly incarcerated persons (FIPs), their families and loved ones. (504) 503-2887 www.vote-nola.org.
- ExOffenders.net: A website that assists former inmates with reentry. They provide a felon friendly employers list.
One last note: Some jobs will probably be out of bounds for you. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website states, “Even if an employer believes that the applicant did engage in the conduct for which he or she was arrested, that information should prevent him or her from employment only to the extent that it is evident that the applicant cannot be trusted to perform the duties of the position.”
Put simply, a company could decide against hiring you if the nature of the job conflicts with the nature, seriousness and timing of your offense. As stated previously, don’t expect the “streets to greet you,” as they say, with employers beating a path to your door to give you a chance. You must expect to take on a humble position before the opportunity arises for better pay and working conditions.
Good luck, and good job hunting!
About our Attorney
Elizabeth B. Carpenter, Esq. is a criminal defense attorney in New Orleans.