Richard Bronson created job search engine 70millionjobs.com to help ex-offenders find employment

70millionjobs.com

Richard Bronson

If entrepreneur Richard Bronson had his way, every American with a criminal record would be employed. And he’s created a job search engine to help achieve that goal.

He calls his company 70millionjobs.com, because that’s how many people he says have a criminal record. And one of those people is Bronson himself.

Bronson served 22 months in a federal prison camp for securities fraud committed while running Biltmore Securities, a company he cofounded. Earlier in his career he gained experience working for Stratton Oakmont. Yes, that’s the brokerage firm immortalized in the film, The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Once out of prison he faced what he calls the “daunting task of getting my life back together.” And he knew it wouldn’t be easy. “As long as there’s the Internet, people can find out everything about you. Once you commit a crime, you have a life-long sentence,” he says.

After Bronson got out of prison, he worked for Defy Ventures for a while but left because he wanted to be involved in something scalable. And his idea of something scalable became 70millionjobs.com

“I decided that this huge population should have the same tools for looking for a job that other people without a record have – an indeed.com for ex-offenders,” he says.

“That was my original vision. I felt that the effort was crying out for a for-profit venture, because it could scale. If you have a website you can engage with 10,000 people without it costing too much.”

Bronson formed partnership with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

He launched his business early last year and concentrated on New York, but when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti approached him to create a partnership, he switched his efforts to L.A.

They launched a three-month pilot project on April 3 that allows Los Angeles employers to post an unlimited number of jobs free of charge. Bronson believes that if his company does a good job and delivers a steady stream of applicants, the companies that list with 70millionjobs.com will be willing to pay after the pilot project period is over.

He’s publicizing the site through community-based organizations that provide job readiness programs, which means those applying for employment on 70millionjobs.com are serious about wanting to work.

Applicants will use video resumes to highlight their personalities

Because traditional resumes can be problematical for those in reentry, Bronson is working on creating video resumes for his applicants, which he feels would work better.

“Many of them have no job experience at all. And no one would want to hire them,” he says. “But if you meet them in person, they’re funny, bright and charming people who would be good to come to work at your company.”

Bronson has also created a unique way for his applicants to actually apply for the jobs posted on 70millionjobs.com.

“Our applicants typically don’t have a laptop and a connection to the Internet. But they all, on the other hand, have smart phones. We will be notifying them by SMS alert (text messaging) anytime there’s a new job that might be suitable for their interests. And with one touch, they can apply for that job,” he explains.

Although Bronson is concentrating his efforts on Los Angeles at the moment, he hopes to add more employers in New York and expand to the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of this year.

“L.A. has the largest population of incarcerated people and people with records. It’s the big league,” he says. “We feel that if things go well in Los Angeles, it will give us the entrée to other cities as well and serve as a template for our expansion.“

 

Tattoo removal: The view from a former warden of the Supermax Federal Prison

 

Bob Hood

Bob Hood, former warden of the Supermax Federal Prison.

It’s a mystery to us why there aren’t more pre-release tattoo removal programs. And we’re not the only ones to question this lack of a service that could do so much to help those getting out of prison start a new life.

In a recent interview we found that Bob Hood feels the same way. With 34 years of experience in the corrections field, Hood has played a variety of roles, including being warden of the “Supermax”Federal Prison in Colorado. Supermax is the most secure federal penitentiary in the nation and the place where Al Qaeda terrorists, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, the Unabomber, Cartel leaders and organized crime figures are locked up.

Here’s what Hood had to say (edited for brevity):

From your own experience, how do prisoners view tattoos?

To begin with, about 75% of inmates overall have tattoos. Inside the facility it’s almost like their resume or business card. They’ll either connect with a gang or just have some razor wire around their neck. They make their own tattoos within the prison so they can assimilate, but as they get closer to a pre-release class where they’re looking for a job they think, “Why that was pretty stupid.”

Besides being able to get a job when they get out, why should inmates consider getting their tattoos removed?

Even those in for life can benefit from tattoo removal. You can do (tattoo removal on) a person doing a multi-life sentence who may never see daylight. Maybe the guy looking in the mirror will no longer see the tear drop or “love and hate” on his knuckles. He may never get out but would like to demonstrate that he’s changing. Tattoo removal should be a choice, and it shouldn’t just be for the guys going out the door.

How can you convince them not to get prison tattoos in the first place?

Be proactive and take photos of people and computerize tattoos on them. Then say to the inmate who just came into the prison, “You want to blend in? You want to be tough? Let’s show you what it looks like. You might think about it. You may not want to get the tattoos. What are the good things you want to retain, and one of them would be a visible-tattoo-free body.”

You refer to tattoo removal as the missing piece of the reentry puzzle. Is anything being done to bring that piece into play?

People are realizing you can’t keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. Even the old school is saying, “Hey, we have to do something different.” Tattoo removal was never part of the puzzle. The correction system says you get the guy through assessment and tell them they have to get their GED, do the classes, study alternatives to violence. But at the end of the day, you’re going to have a harder time if you have the ugliness of socially unacceptable tattoos. People are taking all the courses, but if they go into a normal work environment and have KKK on their forehead, it will stop them from getting a job.

How can correctional facilities be encouraged to establish pre-release tattoo-removal programs?

All local, state, and federal correctional institutions have Admission & Orientation (A&O) programs for new inmates (names for the program may vary). Prior to release, institutions have some form of pre-release programming. Correctional administrators should be encouraged to include information about tattoo removal programs in existing A&O and pre-release curriculum. Specific action steps for administrators may include:

  • Providing a sample lesson plan on the topic of tattoo removal.
  • Offer relevant statistical information and testimonies.
  • Identify current pre-release programs as models.
  • Determine what companies offer tattoo removal in their geographic area.
  • Offer names of national companies (like Quanta) that are supporting the movement to remove visible tattoos.
  • Suggest what location within their agency to start a pilot program (medical institution, release center, etc.).
  • Provide a cost analysis (average cost of individual tattoo removal compared to other release programs).
  • Describe the benefits of removing visible tattoos for offenders not scheduled to release soon (as part of their gang management/behavior control strategy).
  • Don’t just push pre-release value of tattoo removal. Removing tattoos from long-term offenders is just as valuable for their transformation within the prison environment.
In practical terms, how would you carry out tattoo removal procedures?

No warden says their top concern is tattoo removal, because it’s so simplistic, but they could have a commitment from dermatologists in the area. Tell them, “You have the equipment, could you commit to three people per year that you would do tattoo removal procedures for free? It would be good p.r. for the doctor.

Also, if it were my prison, I’d make it part of the system. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has an Inmate Financial Responsibility Program. Some of it goes home, some of it goes for Twinkies and some of it should go to taking off those tattoos. From the money that inmates get by working on various vocational programs or whatever, they might put down 10% towards the cost of getting their tattoos off, and the government would pay the rest.

As far as the prisons are concerned, we have to show the value. If it costs X for tattoo removal, it will cost 50X to pay for those who come back to prison.

But something no one can debate is when you take before-and-after photos of an inmate with tattoos, and ask, “Do you think it’s better that this person has tattoos on their face and arms?” You can’t debate it. It’s the least expensive program of all, and it’s one that we just have not tried.

 

New Beginners Job Search Handbook offers unique tips to ex-offender job seekers

New Beginnings Job Search Handbook

Ken Bailor

Think you’ve heard it all when it comes to job search tips for previously incarcerated job seekers?

We did too, but we learned a few new things from Ken Bailor, the reentry services coordinator for Riverside County (Calif.) ReEntry Services, part of the county’s economic development agency.

During the past 11 years, he has presented job search workshops to more than 25,000 people incarcerated at four of Riverside County’s five correctional facilities.

Bailor calls his students “new beginners,” who by his definition seek to put the past – along with attitudes, actions and negative behavior that led to their incarceration – far behind them, so they can achieve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual success in life.

And to educate them, Bailor developed the New Beginners Job Search Handbook. It offers a step-by-step process that can lead to a new beginning in the lives of those in reentry, as well as a few unique ideas.

Along with resume writing and interview tips, the handbook offers tips on how to improve one’s attitude and approach to life, as well as ability to look for work.

Talking positively

He includes a chart on how to reframe what people need to say to make it positive.

  • For example, instead of this:

“I just got out of jail and need a job.”

  • Tell the hiring manager:

“Jail was a wake-up call for me. I learned new things about myself and my life. I completed my GED and developed new skills. I’m ready to prove that I can be a productive employee.”

Because what people say and how they say it is so important, the handbook includes a vocabulary list for successful New Beginners. It recommends using green flag words like “I can” instead of red flag words like “I can’t.” “I take action” instead of “I should.” “And” instead of “but,” etc.

Understanding the impression you might make

One section of the handbook analyzes what an employer would think about certain behavior or actions when completing a job application, creating a resume or during a job interview that will help students become more aware of how they might come across.

Putting together a personal commercial

Bailor divides jobs into four families – those concerned with ideas, things, people and data – and includes an extensive list of words defining personal assets related to those types of jobs. Using those assets and words for skills chosen from another list, job seekers can put together what he calls a personal commercial and what others might refer to as an elevator pitch.

Also included are a practice application and resume worksheet and examples of different types of resumes and cover letters, as well as advice on where to look for jobs and a job fair attendance checklist. In addition, there’s a list of interview questions, how to explain a felony conviction and information about expungement, certificates of rehabilitation and pardons.

How the handbook is used

Although the book is a self-teaching tool, Bailor and three volunteers take it into the facilities and do a basic introduction. The inmates go through all the exercises, and when they’re finished contact Bailor who asks them an interview question and administers an open-book test. A week later he returns for a closed book final and those who pass receive a certificate.

When they’re about to be released Bailor tells them, ”If you go after those jobs the same way you went after drugs, you’ll be successful. And when you get out, do three things – call your ride, talk to probation and call me.” Only about 10% of the people who leave actually call him, but for those that do he has some solid advice.

He tells his New Beginners:

  • Look forward not back to the troubles you’ve had.
  • Stay positive and find resources. Be proactive.
  • Don’t rely on the jobs that are on the Internet. Visit employers. Tell them about yourself and drop off a resume or JIST card. If you don’t hear back from them in a week, call again. Eventually someone will hire you.
  • Go out and talk to people. Some of the best jobs you’ll find out about are through people in your AA and NA meetings.
  • Stay away from the old places and things, and find new beginnings.

You may view the latest edition of the New Beginners Job Search Handbook, which is included as a resource on Ken Bailor’s Jerry Jobseeker’s Resources website.

 

Group of Kentucky friends creates free tattoo-removal program for ex-offenders

Tattoo Removal Ink

Armando Diaz of Astanza Laser’s New Look Laser College trains Tattoo Removal Ink volunteers to do tattoo removal procedures.

Thanks to the free and low-cost tattoo removal program directory on our website, we’ve been in touch with quite a few people who provide this service.

But rarely have we come across a story quite like that of Jo Martin of Florence, Ky. She rallied a group of friends, got them all to learn how to use a laser device and started Tattoo Removal Ink, a free tattoo removal service, all within the space of a year.

Now it’s up and running – the group performed 100 free procedures from mid-January to mid-February, their first month in business. And she’s still a bit in awe about how it all came about.

Three-and-a-half years ago after retiring from a 30-year career with AT&T and still dealing with the sudden death of her husband several years before that, Martin was approached by a woman at her church and asked if she’d like to tutor at the local jail.

“I wanted to say no, but yes came out of my mouth,” she says. At first it was rather daunting. “I was never exposed to that kind of environment and had never even been inside of a jail.”

Once she began volunteering, Martin was shocked to see the tattoos on some of the inmates and thought, “How could they get a job with those tattoos on their face?” She mentioned it to a friend, and that friend encouraged her to go hear Father Greg Boyle, the Jesuit priest who heads up Homeboy Industries and who was speaking at a university not too far away.

Inspired by Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries

She approached Father Boyle after his speech, and he invited her to come to Los Angeles to check out Homeboy, and she did. ”I fell in love with what Father Boyle was doing and said we could do it too,” she says.

Martin went home, put together a board, and filed the articles of incorporation and the application to be a nonprofit. Within 35 days it had been approved. Her daughter’s mother-in-law, a doctor, agreed to be the medical director.

A deeply religious woman who attends mass everyday, Martin feels it’s the work of God. “Every time I said to God that I’d done something, he gave me an even bigger thing. It all just started falling into place.”

She took some of the insurance proceeds from her husband’s death and bought a $60,000 laser device. (Astanza Laser gave her a $15,000 discount on one of its machines.) A doctor friend and his wife, a nurse, along with another nurse agreed to join the board. She also got a CPA to volunteer.

Martin put Tattoo Removal Ink together on her own with friends and family

“Along the way I met with a whole bunch of agencies in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky – all people who deal with returning citizens,” Martin says. “Everybody loved the idea, but nobody wanted anything to do with it. I just did it on my own with friends and family and my husband’s money. He would have loved it.”

She gathered her group of two doctors, two nurses, two other friends and herself together, adopted the name Tattoo Removal Ink, and in early January a representative of Astanza Laser’s New Look Laser College arrived to conduct a two-day training course. Soon after that, they began their first official procedures in a 900 square-foot rented office space.

Service is by appointment only and comes through referrals from the jail, parole and probation, and inquiries on their website, which have dramatically increased thanks to publicity from a local television news story. The criteria for clients is that they must have been formerly incarcerated, and their tattoos must be on the face, neck or sometimes on an arm – if the person has a construction job and will wear T-shirts in the summertime.

Plans for pre-release tattoo removal programs in local prisons

The program is up and running, but the fundraising is still in the works. Expenses include $1,000 per month for rent, $600 per year for insurance and $6,000 per year for maintenance on the laser device (starting next year).

Board members have chipped in money for the rent and $10,000 for operations. Another board member donated $1,000, and other people have written checks for $250 here and there, says Martin. The hospital of one of the doctors on her board donated a treatment table.

Martin has applied for $5,000 grants from each of her three local counties and is planning to search for other grant opportunities.

By the end of the year she hopes to begin tattoo removals inside the jail where she volunteers. And one of her grade school classmates, who learned about the program through Facebook, plans to retire and be a laser technician at the jail.

The next step is to get lasers inside the area’s two other correctional facilities and start a GED program at the building where Tattoo Removal Ink operates. That way people can study for the GED and get their tattoos removed at the same time and place, which appeals to Martin who tutors inmates so they can pass the GED.

While she originally was hesitant to even enter a jail, working with inmates and returning citizen’s tattoos has become Martin’s passion and new purpose in life.

“This has been so much fun. I love project managing it. And I love the people we’ve been taking tattoos off of,” she says.

New York City mayor commits to offering all those leaving city jails transitional employment

In an endeavor never tried before by a major city, New York Mayor Bill de BlasioNew York mayor has created an initiative that will offer everyone leaving the city’s jails a short-term job upon release, as well as additional services while incarcerated.

It may take years to realize what effect this will have on recidivism, but it’s certainly a start.

In an announcement made late last month, the mayor said that by the end of 2017, everyone incarcerated in city jails will meet with a counselor on their first day in and will have access to five hours of vocational, educational and therapeutic training daily during their stay.

“Everyone deserves a second chance. We’re working to break the cycle of returning to jail for those in city custody by making sure they have opportunities to learn and grow while in jail, and connecting them with the re-entry services to support a pathway to stability when they leave,” said de Blasio when the program was announced.

And when they do leave, they will have a job to go to and support to help them prepare for reentry.

New York City’s Jails to Jobs program offers transitional employment opportunities

As part of the city’s Jails to Jobs program, each prisoner, after serving their sentence, will receive short-term transitional employment that is designed to help them secure a long-term job. According to research evaluating the Center for Employment Opportunities Transitional Jobs Program, gaining transitional employment can help reduce recidivism by as much as 22 percent.

In order to further help those recently released from prison get their lives together, a new health program will pair them with a formerly incarcerated peer, a so-called peer navigator who is stabilized.

In addition to being able to take advantage of these new programs, 500 people who leave city jails each year will still have access to educational subsidies they can use for classes and programs at the City University of New York. Participating in these classes and programs can lead toward a certificate or other credentials that will help participants secure employment.

While these are noble efforts, they aren’t being carried out by the city government alone. de Blasio’s office is working with the New York City Diversion and Re-Entry Council, an organization made up of more than 100 leaders from throughout the criminal justice system, including city government agencies, district attorneys, members of the faith community and formerly incarcerated individuals.

 

Humboldt County (Calif.) works with Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation on Humboldt Second Chance Program

Humboldt Second ChanceIn the far northern reaches of California, in a rural coastal area known for its redwood forests, local county officials are working with Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation to help formerly incarcerated individuals get jobs.

Taking advantage of a $400,000 grant from the state’s Workforce Development Board, Humboldt County has launched the Humboldt Second Chance Program (H2CP).

The Employment Training Division of the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services operates the program, and here’s how it works.

Set up as a series of seven-member cohorts, Humboldt Second Chance trains each cohort for specific types of jobs. Participants are referred from the probation office and after a screening and assessment go through a two-week training focusing on work readiness and expectations.

“We have a lot of younger folks now who may have never even worked. We’re trying to help them understand the rules of the game,” says Connie Lorenzo, employment training division program manager.

“Sometimes they don’t understand how to apply for a job or what’s expected in a job. We also get into time management and conflict management, as well as some of the things they might have issues with, like how to accept authority.”

Program includes two months of vocational training

The next step is vocational training, which lasts for two months. Participants work 25 hours per week, and their salaries are fully funded by the program. Most of the people are trained in construction, but some are doing office work, medical assisting and one has done horticultural training.

That’s as far as program participants have gotten so far, but one group is ready to move on.

“We have 13 people who will graduate out of the vocational training and work experience,” Lorenzo says “The next phase is to get them hired into a permanent position. We have staff willing to help with the job development and placing them, and we will pay 50 percent of their wage for the first four to six months.

Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation works with employers

Now that the Humboldt Second Chance Program has begun to train potential employees, what about the employers? And that’s where Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation comes in.

“The unique thing we did in Humboldt was because we only have 105,000 people and not a lot of industry, we had to recruit multiple employers to the program. We focused our grant not only on the ex-offenders but on employers as well,” says Lorenzo

In January her department held an employer event with a representative of Dave’s Killer Bread to educate employers on second chance employment.

It recruited 12 businesses that day and eight more since then. Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation will work directly with employers as a consultant offering one-on-one support to companies that want to hire people from the second chance program, according to Lorenzo.

“At the event we took the info we use in our summits and our work and showed them how it’s possible to make this (hiring previously incarcerated individuals) work,” says Genevieve Martin, executive director of the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation. “It’s a great pipeline of candidates to look at.”

The foundation is now following up with those employers to see what kind of opportunities they have and to point them toward potential candidates.

This is the first time that DKB Foundation has done anything quite like this, but Martin hopes it won’t be the last.

“We’ve worked with other organizations before, but this is the first time we’ve partnered on a grant to deliver programs with strategic initiatives to the host organization,” Martin says. “Being able to partner with (an organization with) a more local approach is exciting, because that’s where we can make a difference.”

Plan to train 72 people

And Martin has her work cut out for her. Lorenzo says that the grant stated that they hope to train 72 people and get at least 45 of those employed full time. She says, however, they’re on target with between 40 and 50 people referred by probation thus far and is convinced they’ll succeed.

Although Lorenzo, in her position with Humboldt County, serves a lot of different types of clients, she’s especially impressed with those coming out of prison

“One thing I’ve found is that when ex-offenders are ready to transition their lives, they’re a very strong population to work with,” she says.

 

Brooklyn-based Refoundry trains ex-offenders to create home furnishings out of discarded materials

Refoundry

Refoundry participant Dexter Nurse; Refoundry entreprenuers Gene Manigo/Kambui, Custom Craft, and James L Eleby Jr., Eleby Designs. (Photo by Christina Maida.)

Although there are other programs that teach formerly incarcerated individuals entrepreneurial skills, Refoundry takes a slightly different approach. This Brooklyn-based not-for-profit has trained its pilot project participants to create home furnishings out of discarded materials and learn how to sell them.

Although they may have felt discarded by society, participants become confident that they, like the furniture they create, have value and purpose.

“Everybody’s got creativity, and working with our hands is one of the things that define us as human beings. Building things is in our DNA,” says Tommy Safian, the organization’s co-founder and executive director.

“When participants are giving discarded material new value they feel like they’re giving themselves new value as well. It’s very personal. When they send these things out into the world and people who may have formerly looked down on them purchase and bring them into their homes, it makes our participants feel valued.”

Formerly incarcerated individuals display incredible talent

“We’re providing opportunities. A lot of people coming out of prison have an incredible amount of talent,” he says. And Refoundry’s pilot project has taken five of those people, taught them woodworking and entrepreneurial skills.

It may be a not-for-profit, but Safian, who previously had a business collecting furniture from the trash in L.A., refurbishing and selling it, runs Refoundry like a business. He has high expectations of the participants and funnels the profits made from the furniture sold by them back into their training.

Safian doesn’t recruit participants straight out of prison but rather finds those who are already being served by reentry organizations and set up in programs, including the anger management and addiction counseling programs required by the state of New York.

“We’re looking for people who are ambitious, who understand their role, who are willing to learn and who take personal and professional responsibility,” he says.

For the first nine months participants learn how to create furniture from discarded materials and are taught the customer service and entrepreneurial skills needed to sell the pieces they create at the weekly Brooklyn Flea (flea market).

Once trained, participants may go out and start their own business, which four of those in the organization’s pilot project have already done.

Building community

Safian tells a story that exemplifies what Refoundry is trying to achieve. One participant who sold a table to a couple at the flea market had been in prison for 30 years for murder. When he delivered the piece, the customers invited him and his wife to dinner to christen the table.

“Our model is designed to make those types of connections and open up the space so that people can meet on common ground and recognize each other as individuals,” he says.

“In our program the transaction happens hand-to-hand and face-to-face. People have stereotypical and denigrating opinions of each other, but within the space of that transaction, they develop empathy, understanding and common values, and these develop community.”

Refoundry plans expansion

Refoundry now takes up a unit at the Brooklyn Navy Yard but plans to expand by adding more units and possible satellite locations. Safian also said that organizations in 12 states are interested in bringing the model to their communities.

The organization is currently establishing a campus at the Navy Yard, which is expected be ready by the end of the year. It will have wrap around services and a classroom. Columbia Business School will teach financial literacy, the School of Visual Arts will provide design and Pratt Institute will teach web design. Community partner Shake Shack will provide hospitality training and offer participants short-term “Internships” at one of its outlets.

Because he realizes that not everyone has the skills or desire to run their own business, Safian also plans to train people in bookkeeping and sales and marketing so that they can be placed in jobs in Refoundry’s partner organizations. These skills will also help those who launch their own enterprises.

Embrace your story

Whether Refoundry participants start their own business or work for someone else, however, Safian urges them to share their story.

“We encourage our participants to embrace their story and use that in marketing their pieces. There’s a huge amount of talent in New York, and what distinguishes them is the story that they tell,” he says

“Embracing your story with a narrative that’s positive for them and has meaning for others is what’s going to help those coming out of prison find a job.”

 

Denver area teacher creates TattooEmergency911 mobile tattoo removal business to benefit juvenile offenders

TattooEmergency911Jesus Bujanda has created TattooEmergency911, a mobile tattoo removal business that removes unwanted tattoos from juvenile offenders. It’s a model that others may wish to follow, and those who do may eventually be able to purchase a mobile clinic from him.

Bujanda, a Denver area resident and automotive technology high school teacher, was inspired by a nephew who had recently been released from prison and had his tattoos removed.

They had discussed the idea of starting a tattoo removal business at a family Thanksgiving dinner. By New Year’s, Bujanda’s wife had come up with the idea of using an ambulance which would be turned into a clinic and his 8-year-old daughter had come up with the name. Six months later he was in school learning how to be a laser tattoo removal technician.

That was about 18 months ago. Bujanda bought an ambulance, outfitted it so he could perform tattoo removal procedures and began searching for clients. He eventually got a contract with an agency that works with the state of Colorado and now does tattoo removals at three prisons and four transitional living facilities that cater to juvenile offenders. And it’s the youth he’s determined to help.

“A lot of kids make a lot of horrible choices,” he said. “I’ve been working with this population for the last 20 years, and I feel like I’ve kind of found my niche.”

Because he’s still teaching full time, Bujanda does treatments in the evenings and on weekends.

“I have the majority of the state for juveniles,” he says. “As these kids get out, part of their parole is to take their tattoos off. They’re trying to find a job, but they can’t find a job with tattoos on their face. If they do the tattoo removal six months to a year ahead of time, it’s better.” And that’s what Bujanda is trying to do – take off tattoos before they leave prison.

Although he would like to “retire” to the tattoo removal business full time, that may take a while. His wife has opened a brick-and-mortar location that provides aesthetic and laser services, while he continues to teach.

“I don’t have enough clients to retire yet,” Bujanda says, but is hoping to get them by expanding his business to California. He’s establishing residency in Bakersfield and working with the Small Business Development Center there to bring his mobile tattoo services to the area.

He’s also taking classes on how to create proposals for federal funding and would like to work within the federal prison system as well.

In addition, Bujanda plans to create mobile tattoo units as part of his business and is already communicating with someone in Great Britain who is interested in having one designed.

“I’ll have all the software put in, the lasers installed and the rig completely ready to go,” he says.

“It is very difficult. I almost didn’t survive my first year. If you had to pay to build a rig like mine it would be super expensive. I was able to do 95% of the work myself.”

Having him provide the vehicle could save someone a lot of time, money and stress, Bujanda says. And it would be fully outfitted and ready to use.

For those who may want to put together their own rig, however, Bujanda says it will take a tremendous amount of research. And then things don’t always work out.

It’s possible to buy a retired ambulance with relatively low mileage. “Some ambulances from rural areas aren’t used that much, so they might retire them at 30,000 miles or up to 100,000 miles, and they’re very well maintained,” he says.

You may find a dealer for one of these used ambulances by searching online for “used ambulance dealers.” There are also companies that will design and produce custom-ordered vehicles for medical uses. One mobile tattoo unit used Quality Vans of Tempe, Ariz., for example. Other similarly specialty vehicles producers can be located by searching the member’s directory of NTEA, The Association for the Work Truck Industry.

And nonprofits might want to team up with their county health department or other local medical organization, if it is one of the clinics that operates a mobile health program. There are an estimated 2,000 of these programs across the U.S. Mobile Health Map offers details on 700 of them.

Meanwhile, when it comes to equipment Bujanda recommends buying a laser device from a company that has a technician in town, or at least close by, if possible. That way if something goes wrong you won’t have to fly someone in to fix it.

The interior was one of his biggest challenges, mainly because the man who he hired to do it got sick, so Bujanda had to learn how to do the work, including the electricity, himself.

And he purchased the wrong flooring. “It looked really nice when I first put it in, but what looks good in a doctor’s office takes a lot of maintenance,” he says.

But in the end, he has his rig. “You really have to sit down and understand what you’re doing. It’s all trial and error.”

 

Jails to Jobs creates a new job search training toolkit for those who want to help ex-offenders find employment

Job Search Training ToolkitWorking with people about to leave prison or those in reentry who are trying to find jobs? Nonprofit Jails to Jobs, Inc. has a brand new resource to help you do that more effectively.

Its new Jails to Jobs: Job Search Training Toolkit is designed to give people who present job search workshops in jails and prisons, and job developers who work with previously incarcerated individuals the resource they need. And it’s all here and ready to go.

The kit includes 20 copies of an all-inclusive job search handbook, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed, published by the organization. It also includes a 73-slide PowerPoint presentation, which was developed as the result of delivering workshops to more than 3,000 soon-to-be-released men and women and is based on the book. The presentation can be used to conduct a two- to three-hour workshop in one or multiple sittings, making it easier to schedule.

All presenters need to do is familiarize themselves with the material in the book, as well as the PowerPoint slides, and they’re ready to offer the workshop. Corresponding page numbers from the job search handbook are listed on slides making it easier for both presenter and participants to use slides along with the book. Optional slides can be added, or existing slides edited, to include local resources and other unique details furthering the value of the workshop.

Participants will receive a copy of the handbook that they can read and study further and use as a guide through the job search process to find and land a job and stay out of prison.

The PowerPoint presentation and the book offer advice, instructions and exercises to teach participants just about everything they need to do to conduct a job search.

Why order a job search training toolkit? Here are 25 reasons!
Putting the tools together

Workshop participants will learn how to:

  • Record an effective voice-mail message, standout and be remembered.
  • Create a unique card that may work better than a resume.
  • Prepare an elevator pitch, helping to make a very favorable first impression.
  • Put together a master application and resume, saving time and increasing productivity in their search.
  • Develop a targeted list of potential employers who they can contact and visit.
Once they begin their search

They’ll learn how to:

  • Use a proven technique, integrating the telephone and email for the best job search success results.
  • Find the person who has the power to extend a job offer.
  • Just walk into places of employment and know what to tell the hiring managers that will increase their chances of getting a job offer.
  • Create and use a circle of contacts chart to identify people who can help them in their job search including offering job leads.
  • Make their parole officer a part of their network.
  • Carry out an informational interview and gain inside knowledge.
Dealing effectively with their record

They’ll learn how to:

  • Create a convincing argument that hiring previously incarcerated individuals increases an employers’ talent pool and makes economic sense.
  • Encourage a job offer by knowing how and when to present hiring incentives that employers can take advantage of to benefit their bottom line.
  • Create a turnaround talk and package to convince employers that they have changed.
  • Highlight useful work skills developed in prison, helping to make the prison experience a strength rather than a negative.
  • Deal with their record on the job application form and increase the likelihood of being hired.
  • Understand and utilize two of the most effective job search methods that work for ex-offenders.
Resources and things they may not have thought of

They’ll learn how to:

  • Integrate volunteering into their efforts as a method to increase possible job leads and offers.
  • Use a temp employment agency as a stepping stone to full time regular work. Includes a list of 12 agencies we’ve heard good things about.
  • Employ unorthodox methods to get the attention of hiring managers.
  • Find free interview clothing and work attire.
  • Find free or low-cost tattoo removal programs to get visible anti-social or gang-related job stopping tattoos taken off.
  • Take advantage of job training and apprenticeship programs.
  • Implement 10 key tips from surveyed employers that will make ex-offenders more marketable.

The cost of the training toolkit is $395 and includes shipping within the continental United States. Additional copies of the book are available at a discounted rate of $12 each. We invite you to take a look at our book reviews on Amazon and email us with any questions and to place your order.

 

 

 

Gatekeepers founder Bill Gaertner launches mentoring program for ex-offender job seekers

Bill Gaertner

Bill Gaertner

Bill Gaertner, founder and director of Gatekeepers in Hagerstown Md., will soon launch a mentoring program that recruits members of the local faith community to work with citizens returning to the area from jails and prisons.

A former basketball coach at Norwich University and University of Connecticut, Gaertner was incarcerated late in life.

“I went into prison at the age of 61 for domestic violence and being an alcoholic. I imploded. While I was there I relied on all the tools of coaching and playing college athletics to get through, and then I got a chance to start a new life here,” he says.

When released, Gaertner committed his life to helping others who, like him, had spent time behind bars. He does this through his organization, Gatekeepers, whose stated mission is to motivate, empower and encourage ex-offenders. The organization achieves this through its Job Readiness Training Program, which is based on what Gaertner calls the “business of living.”

“We failed the business of living by going into the penal system,” he says. “Each person has the opportunity to start their own life business. Every day we look at our lives educationally, occupationally and personally. Every day we have to get smarter, get better at our jobs and be better people.”

In the program, participants are taught civics, speaking skills and anger management. They can join the Gatekeepers job club, which works with employers, parole and probation, and social service agencies. Over the past 2-1/2 years, 80 to 90 men have gotten starter jobs as a result.

Gatekeepers expands its I Got a Job Club

The next step is in the works. The I Got a Job Club, which has been a pilot project with three reentering citizens, will expand into a full-fledged program in March.

Gaertner plans to launch with eight to 12 people in reentry who have already gotten entry-level work. For the most part they’re pre-selected by Kairos Prison Ministry from the facilities in which it works.

“We get these guys identified while they’re still in prison. They’re being mentored by Kairos. We give them the initial services. But then they fall off the grid. They can keep their job for a while but they can’t stay straight. These people need coaches. They need people in their lives or it doesn’t work,” Gaertner says.

Those coaches will be volunteers from the faith-based community and from every walk of life, including some company owners.

They will meet together on alternate Saturday mornings at a local church. The two-hour sessions will begin with an explanation of the business of living concept, and individuals will give updates on where they are since they’ve gotten a job. After that introduction an expert will talk to them about a different subject each meeting, and then the group will break up for one-on-one or two-one-one mentoring.

Mentors are disciples, good listeners and friends

“I like to call it coaching. We say you’ve got a life coach,” Gaertner says. “I get them ready for mentoring (coaching). A mentor is a disciple, a good listener and a friend. He’s not going to give you legal advice. He’s not going to give you cash.”

The mentors are trained using a 20-page manual outlining their responsibilities and duties. Gaertner says that it’s almost like a 12-step program with a sponsor, which he refers to as an accountability partner.

Although starting small, he hopes to build the program to help meet the challenges that those returning to his county face. “In this detention center here in Hagerstown, there are 370 inmates and a 70% recidivism rate,” he says.

“There are a lot of good programs in the prisons but when they leave they leave all that behind.”

Gaertner and Gatekeepers are working hard to ensure that at least some of those leaving prison won’t themselves be left behind, as they learn to engage in the business of life.