Job Search for Ex-Offenders

Every year, over 600,000 persons are released from the different incarceration facilities all over the country. Around 70 million (one out of every three Americans of working age) Americans possess one form of criminal record or the other.

Getting a job may sometimes ordinarily be difficult, especially when coupled with the fact that the applicant has a criminal record. For an ex-offender getting a job is immensely beneficial because of the following reasons:

  • It helps the ex-offender to feel a sense of responsibility for their ability to take care of their financial needs.
  • It keeps the ex-offender positively busy thereby effectively utilizing their time.
  • It helps the ex-offender to be reintegrated with society and away from criminal networks.
  • It reduces the chances of recidivism. 
  • It gives the individual a sense of accomplishment and pride in their abilities. 

Tips on How to Search for Job for Ex-Offenders

Getting a job after incarceration is often difficult, however, for ex-offenders, the following considerations may be taken to help in the search:

  • Ex-offenders are advised to begin informing friends, families, and interested persons of their need for a job. They may also contact employers, attend job fairs, and apply to jobs found in online banks. They may search for a transition job, which may not afford them good pay, or may not align with their long-term career objective, however, this will help them to begin the process of being reintegrated back to society.
  • In searching for a job, most application processes require the applicant to tick the box indicating their offender status. This may be discouraging, however, there has been a national campaign to “ban the box” and this has resulted in over 35 states and 150 cities promoting regulations that discourage inquiries into the criminal record of job applicants. These states include:


New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York

North Dakota
Rhode Island

Out of these 36 states, 14 states have further banned the box for private employers including Oregon, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii,Rhode Island,  Maryland,  New Mexico, Massachusetts, Minnesota,    Vermont, and Washington.

Applicants may take advantage of the opportunities provided by seeking jobs in these states where their qualifications would be given greater priority than their record and background history.

  • When drafting a resume, ex-offenders should take note to include any experience gained during their incarceration as this will point attention to the skill gained rather than the time spent incarcerated. Instead of indicating the prison facility where the time was spent, the state or county should be used as the location. In addition, the resume should be crafted in such a way as to focus more attention on the skills gained than on the chronology of their work experience .
  •  The U.S Equal employment opportunity commission advises employers to consider the nature of the crime, the nature of the job, and how long ago the crime was committed when considering applications from ex-offenders. In this regard, offenders may utilize this opportunity by making reference to the issues raised and pointing out the distance between the nature of the offense and the nature of the job required, as well as possible rehabilitation that has been undergone since the time of the commission of the crime.
  • Despite the presence of the “Ban the Box” regulation in any locality, the employer may still reserves the right to make inquiries as to the criminal history of the applicant later on in the hiring process, it would be important in this case to practice an acceptable way of answering the question if it should be asked, an ex-offender is advised to, be honest, keep the answer simple, accept responsibility for the wrong and emphasize on any self-development progress or positive strides made since being released and a desire to apply skills learned to the job role.
  • It may benefit ex-offenders to locate and join any local community organization that specializes in helping offenders get access to friendly employment opportunities or access to training that will help ex-offenders garner the adequate skills and resources needed to secure employment.

Existing Programs to assist Ex-Offenders with Job Search

The rate of unemployment, especially for ex-offenders poses a significant societal risk. This has encouraged the government and other institutions to come up with programs designed to encourage employers to take on the services of ex-offenders in their organizations. The following are some of the programs that could be taken advantage of:

  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit: This program created by the government is meant to encourage employers to employ a certain targeted group of persons with work entry barriers among which there is a category for ex-offenders. They provide a tax credit of up to $9,600 each year depending on the category the employee falls under within the targeted group.
  • Federal Bonding Program: This is a program set up by the U.S Department of Labour that seeks to indemnify at-risk employees. The bonds serve as a tool that assures the genuineness of job applicants who are perceived to be a threat. The program is made to reimburse the employer for any loss arising from an employee’s theft of money or property during the pendency of the employment relationship with the ex-offender.
  • Ban the Box: This is a program initiated by ex-offender advocates which encourages the government to ban the requirement of stating an offender status on the application form. This program has recorded huge success especially with its endorsement by the presidential directive to delay inquiries to the records of job applicants for federal agencies and the introduction of the Fair Chance Act. This campaign has also been accepted and backed by regulations in 36 states of the country and numerous cities and counties. It seeks to restrict the extent to which employers can inquire into the history of an ex-convict and at what point they are allowed to do so. 
  • Fair Chance Business Pledge: This initiative launched by the U.S. government is meant to inspire private business owners to remove hindrances on the journey to a second chance for ex-offenders. The companies who signed the pledge gave their support to:
    • Equal opportunity for all, including ex-offenders
    • Banning the Box
    • Offering equal internship opportunities for all categories of persons
    • Providing ex-offenders with the requirement for reintegration back to society.

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