No. 387

According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are over 6 million adults who are part of our nations criminal justice system. Of this number over 4 million are on probation or parole. Here is the sad news for many of these people, in addition to being convicted of a crime. A recent government report found of those on parole 46% met their conditions of supervision, while 40% went back to jail or prison for violations. Now Im not too sharp on math, but this report did not say what happened to the other 14%. What I do know is that over the past several months I have heard from a good number of prison inmates who write to me for one reason or another. Usually its because they have read one of my articles in a local paper and because of my encouraging nature, they often open up and share their heart with me. Many feel remorse and want to start a new life.
Such was the case for a man who wrote to me a few months ago, while he is incarcerated in one of our Eastern states. You will note that I never identity the state, unless what I have to say is complimentary, because it would be unfair to single out any one state since all states have the same basic problems. This inmate, whose name is Henry, has been in prison for about five years and he is scheduled to be released in 18 months. The main problem for Henry is that he wants to find a job when he gets out. He shared with me in his last letter that people tell him to go to Man Power, Labor Finders, the Unemployment Office and so forth. He says they are right, you can go there, but if you have a felony on your record they will give you an application to fill out but they will never call you back. From this point on they will just give you the run around. Have you ever had someone give you the run around?
The bottom line is this. Many inmates go back to prison because they cant find a job and have to revert back to their old ways to survive. Im not discounting the fact that many ex-cons really do not want a job or at least one that requires real work. Their old ways and habits are too hard to break and when they violate their parole requirements, back they go. However, there are many inmates who have been rehabilitated and do want a job and Im hoping that Henry is in this group. His choice of company will make a big difference. Only time will tell..
Apparently he was out earlier and got a job at a fast food restaurant. When he was hired he did not put his criminal record on his application and after 6 months his employer found out and fired him. At this point he asked the manager if it would have made any difference if he has put it on his application. The manager said, no, they just would not have called him for an interview. There are many reasons for attitudes like this in our society. The number one factor is fear, the fear that an ex-con wont be trustworthy and even could turn out to be violent, if there is a disagreement or confrontation in the work place.
The next reason is because many employers who have hired ex-cons have had a bad experience. You know it just takes one bad egg out of a dozen to turn an employer sour on ever giving another one a chance again. There is however, a bright side. When many inmates are released from prison, they do go straight and make really good employees. I have heard of many cases like this. There is a young man from our church who is in prison now and I have learned that he is getting vocational training so he will have a skill to offer a potential employer when he is released in the next several months.
In relation to what I have been sharing, for those of you who will read this column, both inmates and potential employers alike, there are two primary considerations here. First to inmates. Many convicted felons do not truly understand the trust and confidence factor. When you make a serious mistake and wind up in prison, it often takes years to restore your good name and have others willing to trust you and have enough confidence in you to give you a job. Work hard, be honest and dependable for three to five years and you will see trust and confidence begin to return.
For potential employers. If you or someone you know is willing to give an inmate who wants a job a chance, please drop me a note and I will put you in touch with Henry. From that point on you will have to be the judge. Please understand, Im not an employment agency and there are people who do this professionally. Also, if any of you know of companies (large or small), agencies or websites that can help these people, pass it along and I will share it in a future column. If you want to know why Im doing this, sometime read the poem, The Touch Of The Masters Hand and you will understand why. There is HOPE! (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)