Northwestern University study finds ex-offender job retention rates longer than those without records

ex-offender job retentionA recent study by Northwestern University researchers should encourage employers who have considered hiring those with criminal records to do so.

A typical employee who has a criminal record is likely to have a psychological profile that is different from other employees, “with fewer characteristics associated with good job performance outcomes.”

Even so those employees are fired at about the same rate as other employees, and they tend to keep their jobs much longer.

The data covers the period from 2008 to 2014 and came from the client companies of a hiring consulting firm. These companies conducted pre-employment hiring exams that included psychological questions. The job seekers were applying to such entry-level white-collar positions as call center sales and customer service reps. About 27 percent of those with records had a higher than high school education.

The study stresses the fact that those with criminal records have such a difficult time finding employment is of serious policy concern. Some 650,000 people are released from prison every year (2013 statistics). And more than half of them are back in within three years. One of the primary reasons is that they can’t find legitimate jobs.

Initiatives such as Ban the Box legislation, EEOC regulations and Obama’s “Take the Fair Chance Pledge” have all helped provide a better chance for previously incarcerated job seekers, as have the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and Federal Bonding Program. Still many employers are reluctant to hire people from this population.

Employees with records have lower turnover rate

In the study, however, employees with records had a 13 percent lower turnover rate, saving the company $1,000 per year for each of them hired.

The researches concluded that “having a criminal background makes an employee less likely to leave voluntarily, likely to have a longer tenure and no more likely to be terminated. Since involuntary turnover is by definition associated with weaker performance ….. and turnover costly, this evidence taken together suggests that employees with a criminal background are, in fact, a better pool for employers.”

There was some increased incidents of employment related misconduct leading to termination, but these tended to be in sales positions. Whether the behavior is related to higher stress caused by the demands of sales positions or inherent personality traits among some of those with criminal records that might make them incompatible with this type of job is unknown.

In spite of some positive statistics that might encourage more employers to hire job seekers with criminal records, the researchers admit that more study needs to be done. The employers were aware, for example, that the people they hired had criminal records, which may have affected the way they chose them.

Also, a decrease in discrimination against those with criminal records might give a broader population of ex-offenders a chance, thus changing the applicant pool which could affect the length of tenure.

Although more needs to be learned, two things are for sure. The more formerly incarcerated people get steady jobs, the less likely they are to return to prison. And they can be a good bet and worth hiring.

 

How to use co-coaching effectively in your job search

co-coaching

Marty Nemko

Co-coaching is a technique that can help you improve your search for employment. Maybe you’re not sure exactly what type of job your skills are suitable for. Or you don’t really know how to go about finding a job. Or you just need someone to help you evaluate the options.

Practicing co-coaching will give you an opportunity to learn more about yourself and help you gain the confidence to confront the challenges you will face. But you need a partner.

The technique is so effective that even some professional life and career coaches use it. They choose someone they know as their co-coach and work with each other on a regular basis either in person or on the phone.

So follow their example and find someone to work with you, coaching you as you coach them. You should schedule sessions on a regular basis – every other week would probably be often enough.

Each session should last for about an hour, with one person asking questions and coaching for about 30 minutes, and then the other takes over. It doesn’t have to be just two people, however. It can also be a group of three or four.

Marty Nemko recommends co-coaching for certain job seekers

And career coach and author Marty Nemko is a big proponent of the practice.

He advises choosing a friend who knows you fairly well and who you think would be a good listener and non-judgmental. You want someone to hear you out, encourage you and give you confidence.

The first thing for you and your friend to do is to watch a set of videos of training sessions on co-coaching that Nemko conducted at the San Francisco Public Library. They are not long and will give you a much better idea of how to go about the process

You can assess them through the following links:

Part one  Part two  Part three  Part four

Co-coaching empowers people

Co-coaching is working to help your partner change their life. Nemko says you have to encourage disagreement. And the more honest you can be, the more the coach can help you. The goal of the coach is to help you decide what you really want to do and how to go about doing it.

You empower the other person. Nod as they talk and say “mm, mm” to encourage them. Ask them further questions as they speak. And above all else, make sure that what is said during the session remains confidential.

Nemko recommends beginning the session by bringing up issues or challenges your partner might be having with their job search – or problems that are keeping them from looking. And then you can say, “Tell me something more about the problem.”

And then ask them, “What have you tried in the past? Has it worked for you?

After they reply, you can give them some ideas and ask them what do you think?” Nemko recommends.

Keep asking those questions

Then you can begin to ask other questions.

Here are a few examples of what types of questions that Nemko and others recommend you might ask to help people build their confidence and consider various options.

What do you do well?

What are your best skills? What are the top three and why do you think they’re the best?

What skills would you like to be focusing on in your next job?

Where do you think you should look for work?

How will you go about it?

For example, do you think you’ll get your next job from someone you know or someone you don’t know?

An important part of the process is giving advice

Then you can give advice. For example, Have you ever looked into an apprenticeship program? Do you think you might like that?

What type of trade do you think you would like to pursue? Based on what you’ve said you might want to consider carpentry or sheet metal worker.

Tell me what steps you plan to take to start out?

And then a final question can be, “What other actions do you plan to take with what you learned today?

It might be a good idea to take notes, so that in your next co-coaching session you can come back to some of the things your partner mentioned. And also take notes on what you learned and what you plan to do about it.

So be adventurous and try co-coaching. It’s a unique tool that can help you learn how to achieve your goals. And for some people, this experience could also offer new insights into jobs that they never considered before.

 

Redemption Ink partners with Jails to Jobs to get more tattoo shops involved with tattoo removal

 

Redemption Ink

Dave Cutlip of Redemption Ink creates a cover-up tattoo.

Southside Tattoo of Baltimore launched Redemption Ink, a free tattoo cover-up program for hate and gang-related tattoos, in January. And it’s working with Jails to Jobs to refer potential clients in other parts of the country to free or low-cost tattoo removal programs.

Already they’ve done 22 cover-ups – not a small task considering each session can take four or five hours – and created a sister shop program to recruit other tattoo shops to do free tattoo cover-ups or removals.

It all began in a rather serendipitous way. A man, who was waiting for a pizza at the restaurant next door, dropped in to ask if they could cover up his Black Guerilla Family, a prison gang, tattoo. Because it was too big, shop owner and tattoo artist Dave Cutlip said he couldn’t do it.

But after the guy left, Dave’s wife said that maybe they could do it for other people and put a notice on Facebook that they would cover up hate and gang-related tattoos for free. And it went viral. 22 Words picked up the story, and it’s been viewed more than 29 million times.

That was in January and that’s when the emails from the media and potential clients started pouring in. Redemption Ink has gotten fan mail from as far away as New Zealand and a request for a procedure from someone in Nepal. They’ve been on Good Morning America and Japanese television, among other media appearances.

Redemption Ink has had thousands of requests for free cover-ups

As for clients, “We have thousands of requests but have approved hundreds. If we were just doing cover-ups it would take us the rest of our lives,” says Dave Ente, who handles requests and media for Redemption Ink.

There are certain criteria in order for a tattoo to be eligible for a free cover-up. If it’s gang-related, it has to be a tattoo for an actual gang, and they have resources to check if it is. Racist tattoos have to be determined to be truly racist rather than portraying southern heritage. A heart with a Confederate flag and the words “White Power” would count. The same tattoo design that says “Dixie Girl” wouldn’t.

Applicants are also asked to tell the story of their tattoo and why they decided to get it, as well as how it has affected their daily lives and ability to move forward.

Since requests have come in from all over the country – all over the world in fact – Redemption Ink has created a sister shop program and encourages other shops to get involved.  Those interested can apply on Redemption Ink’s website, and so far it has chosen six shops, including one in Greece. One requirement is that the shop must have business insurance.

All applications from potential clients for these sister shops are sent to Redemption Ink to be screened by Ente. Once a shop is approved, people can be referred to it, if they live nearby.

Jails to Jobs helps find free or low-cost tattoo removal programs for Redemption Ink clients

To help applicants in other areas of the country, Ente has turned to Jails to Jobs.

“Jails to Jobs is delighted to work with Redemption Ink. It is welcome to use the national directory of free and low-cost tattoo removal programs on our website and has been contacting us for referrals,” says Mark Drevno, Jails to Jobs’ founder and executive director.

In fact, Ente recently contacted Jails to Jobs about an application from a person with a full-back tattoo. He described it as skinheads raising the Nazi flag in a similar fashion to the iconic American photo of the Flag Over Iwo Jima.

“Besides not having a sister shop in the area, some tattoos are too big for cover-up. In this case, we were able to refer Ente to a program we featured in a recent blog article,” says Drevno.

“To further our mission, we’ve offered Redemption Ink an open invitation to contact us at any time with tattoo removal cases for anti-social, hate, racist or gang-related tattoos, when there is no existing local tattoo removal program listed in our national directory.”

Jails to Jobs looks at this as an opportunity to expand the circle of compassion and support, and recruit new providers to help create new free or low-cost tattoo removal programs in areas where there is a need and none exist.

In addition to potential individual client referrals, Jails to Jobs plans to refer tattoo artists who might want to be a Redemption Ink sister shop.

“Once these shops are onboard as a Redemption sister shop, if they’d like to do tattoo removal, we can advise them on steps to take and offer a copy of the book we’ve written: Tattoo Removal: Establishing a Free or Low-Cost Community-Based Program: A How-to Guide,” says Drevno.

“We look at tattoo shops as natural places to also perform tattoo removal procedures. The community service offering of free or low-cost tattoo removal could be supported through business generated at market or discounted rates by regular paying customers that want other types of tattoos removed.”

“Assuming overhead costs are being met by the tattoo side of the business, the money generated by the new tattoo removal side should be incremental, less the associated costs of the laser device and sessions. On top of that, using a laser to remove tattoos rather than covering them up saves the shop a tremendous amount of time that can be used for additional charity or billable work.”

What’s next for Southside Tattoo and Redemption Ink?

The shop has decided to add tattoo removal procedures to its repertoire. It recently went to Colorado to meet with Quanta Aesthetic Lasers about purchasing a tattoo removal laser device.

“We need a medical director, and the laser has to be fired by an RN or physician’s assistant. We have a medical director already, and we’re working on some RNs,” says Ente.

Redemption Ink also wants to encourage its sister shops to do tattoo removals. While cover-ups are done for free by all, Redemption Ink would like to pay tattoo shops to do removals. Elizabeth Cutlip, Southside Tattoo owner Dave Cutlip’s wife, has launched a gofundme campaign to be able to do this. So far the campaign has raised more than $20,000 of its $60,000 goal.

Whether shops offer tattoo cover-ups or tattoo removals, it’s all about helping to create new beginnings.

“We’re trying to help people move on with their lives. People who have made the choice to not be that way anymore now that they’ve gotten out of jail or gotten out of the gang and are having a hard time finding a job,” says Ente. “We’re able to help them be contributing members of society by dealing with their gang related or hate tattoos. And we’re succeeding one tattoo at a time.”

In addition, Ente says that they’re always looking for more volunteers to be added to their sister shop program and are happy to take on more cases for those who need it.

 

Photographer Steven Burton helps ex-gang members see effects of tattoo removal and publishes book, Skin Deep

Skin Deep

Marcos Luna, one of the subjects of Skin Deep: Looking Beyond the Tattoos.

In a unique endeavor – soon to be a book – photographer Steven Burton digitally erased the tattoos from portraits of ex-gang members to show what they would look like without the ink. And the results were amazing.

During the two-year project, Skin Deep: Looking Beyond the Tattoos, Burton photographed 26 men and one woman, removed their tattoos using Photoshop and then interviewed them about their lives and how they felt about being tattooed.

It all began when a friend invited Burton to the premier of G-Dog, the documentary about Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries. “I had just moved to L.A. and knew nothing about gangs, but I was totally overwhelmed by the movie,” he says.

What Burton noticed most was the number of tattoos that adorned the Homeboys’ bodies and how tattoo removal played an important role in the organization’s mission. “I thought, I could take tattoos off with Photoshop and see what happens,” he says.

Excited by the prospect, he produced some sample before-and-after photos and took them to Homeboy the next day to gauge interest. The people he showed them to were impressed, and Skin Deep was on its way.

Photoshopping photos took more than 400 hours

Over a period of six months Burton photographed Homeboy members and some of their friends. Each shoot lasted only about 10 minutes, but Burton spent more than 400 hours to Photoshop the tattoos off of all of his subjects.

He later went back to show the people he photographed their “before-and-after” photos and to interview them so he could include their stories in the book. That was the biggest challenge he faced during the entire project.

“The hardest thing about this book was finding the people I photographed when I returned to L.A. (He was there off and on during the two years.) Some of them had left Homeboy and changed their phone numbers,” he says.

It may have been difficult to find them, but that’s when the project became more meaningful to Burton.

“I take pictures of somebody I don’t know and get to know them through their interviews. And once you get to know someone, the tattoos become less intimidating,” he says.

How subjects see themselves without their tattoos

“But the most interesting part of this project for me is how they see themselves. At first I was so focused on how other people see them. But when they saw the pictures is when I realized it was a pretty powerful concept.”

These portraits, four in all for each subject – a headshot and a full body photo each with and without tattoos – are paired with an interview in the upcoming book.

The interviews, some as long as 2,000 words, introduce the ex-gang members as real people, and bring to life their dreams and ambitions.

“They’re fascinating, amazing interviews,” says Burton. “I was so much more interested in where they want to go in their lives and how they have changed than the crimes they committed, because that’s more relevant. The interviews are about their aspirations and hopes. They’re about what the tattoos mean to them, the challenges they face and how they deal with day-to-day life.”

And showing the photos to his subjects was also an incredible experience for Burton. Although he was concerned that his subjects would be depressed, that didn’t happen.

“There was sadness when they saw the pictures and amusement as well. It was a reflective experience,” he says. “Many things passed through their minds. They wondered if their chances in life would be different if they didn’t look like this. The tattoos reflect the life they’ve been through.”

Even before they were able to see themselves without tattoos, 90 percent of his subjects had already decided to get their tattoos removed. Two of the men in the book have since been shot and killed by the police.

powerHouse Books to release Skin Deep in October

Although he’d like to continue the project, possibly taking it to prisons, Burton will remain busy with his photography business and promoting the book, which will be released in October by powerHouse Books.

The experience taught him a great deal and made him reevaluate his first impressions of people who may, at first glance, look very different from others. And his tattooed subjects inspired him.

“I learned about the incredible courage it takes to change your life. If these people can do what they do, then we have no excuses. They come from a pretty abusive background, and to actually change themselves and find work is incredibly humbling,” he says. “But mainly, I learned that they’re human beings like everyone else.”

When published this fall, Skin Deep: Looking Beyond the Tattoos will be available on Burton’s website, and through powerHouse Books, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

S.F. Bay Area philanthropist Matt Mochary sends ex-offenders to truck driving school

 

Matt MocharyThere are many ways that people become involved with helping formerly incarcerated individuals get back on their feet, but Matt Mochary’s story is rather unique. And what he does now – he sends people getting out of jail to truck driving school – proves, once again, that jobs are key to preventing recidivism.

After selling his company Totality Corp. to Verizon at the age of 31, Mochary had enough money to pursue other interests. What he decided to do was make movies. His first, Favela Rising, was shot in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The second, The Gloves, focused on heavyweight boxers who live and train in the South Bronx. Both of them opened his eyes to another existence of which he was previously unaware.

“When I was in Brazil making a documentary, I ended up spending a lot of time in the favelas. I realized there were no jobs there. The best job the people who live in the favelas could get was joining the drug gangs,” he says.

Mochary found the same thing to be true in the South Bronx. “I realized that if I had been born in that zip code I’d be a gang member as well as a gang leader. I had the thought that maybe convicted felons in the country are just doing what they have to do to eat. To survive,” he says.

He decided to test out his theory by working with an inmate being released from Riker’s Island, who had been incarcerated since the age of 14. “It was shockingly easy. I thought why wouldn’t I hire you. Because you look like a thug, talk like a thug and act like a thug. So I helped him look, act and dress like a kid who’d gone to an Ivy League college,” he says. (Mochary graduated from Yale University.)

After release, the guy got a job, but when they discovered his record the he was fired. And it happened several times. So Mochary decided that those leaving jail and prison need jobs where their record doesn’t matter. That would be construction work, truck driving or farm labor, and truck driving seemed to be the easiest of those to procure.

Shortage of qualified applicants for truck and bus driver job openings

According to Mochary’s research there are often shortages of qualified applicants for available truck and bus driver positions. And the pay can be pretty good – $20-$25 per hour to start. Driving public passenger buses usually pays more, though, and the benefits are often better. Therefore, in most cases, Mochary suggests training for and taking a passenger bus driving test.

Mochary now works through his Mochary Foundation, created to help previously incarcerated individuals find jobs and to train the brightest kids in the poorest neighborhoods to be computer programmers.

He began working with inmates at San Francisco County Jail nine months ago and has put eight people through truck driver training, all of whom are fully employed.

Most truck driving schools offer 10-week courses, but Mochary has found schools that can train people in a week. People can start studying for the California DMV commercial drivers written test while still incarcerated and then take the training when out.

Passing the test is not easy and requires many hours of study and taking practice tests, which are included in the materials Mochary provides. Even though it takes hard work and effort, those who are motivated and who put the required time in will have a pretty good chance of passing the test.

The total cost for each participant is about $2,250. The DMV test is $73, the medical exam $80, one week of truck driving school $2,000, and transportation to and from school for a week $100.

Willing to finance training for hundreds of people

Meanwhile, Mochary says he is willing to finance the training of “hundreds of people” but doesn’t want to handle the logistics of the inmates studying the test material and then committing to going to truck driving school.

“I need someone else to get excited about it. I wanted to prove to myself that it could work, and I’ve already done that. I’d like to find a national organization that already exists and have them adopt the program,” he says.

Until Mochary finds that organization he is willing to accept referrals of California jail inmates who are interested in participating, but they would need the support of someone inside the jail or a volunteer organization working there.

That person or organization could print out the study materials that Mochary provides and hand them to the inmate, administer practice exams when ready and then follow up to connect that person with Mochary, so he could sponsor the truck driving school training. The money transfer part can be handled through the service league at each jail.

Mochary has written a short guide on how to administer a California Driver’s Licensing Truck Driving Training Program in jail or prison. As part of a desire to help give “thousands and thousands” of people a second chance, he has generously offered to share his guide and handouts with jail contacts and/or organizations in California to support California referrals. He is also willing to share the information with out-of-state organizations that would like to replicate his program in their own state. Since laws can be different in different states the appropriate local state agencies should be consulted before launching a program.

Anyone who might be interested should contact Mochary at matt@mochary.com.

Things to consider before training to be a trucker

Although many people love the freedom of the road, being a long-haul trucker is not an easy life. It can be lonely and wreak havoc on families and relationships. (Although team driving as a couple may be able to help take care of the relationship problem.)

From our research we learned a few things to pass on:

  • Working for a smaller company can sometimes mean higher pay and an employer that may value its drivers more.
  • Be wary of being an independent contractor, as it can in many cases be a financial nightmare.
  • Depending on where you’d like to live, driving a public bus may be the best option. If not that, a truck driving job which allows you  to come home each day can be better for your personal life and health than being a long-haul truck driver.
  • Not being on the road for extended periods of time will also offer an opportunity to attend night school or other retraining programs in the evenings and on weekends. This is something to consider, since  self-driving trucks may eventually force truckers to consider other career options.

 

 

 

 

Highlighting soft skills can be key to getting a job

soft skillsSoft skills – the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others – may be just as important to performing and keeping a job as the technical or job performance related skills for which people are hired.

And many employers agree. In a survey of 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder in 2014, 77% of employers felt that soft skills are just as important as hard skills.

“When companies are assessing job candidates, they’re looking for the best of both worlds: someone who is not only proficient in a particular function, but also has the right personality,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.

“Along with responsibilities, it’s important to highlight soft skills that can give employers an idea of how quickly you can adapt and solve problems, whether you can be relied on to follow through, and how effectively you can lead and motivate others.”

Top 10 soft skills that employers consider when evaluating a job candidate

The top 10 most popular soft skills companies say they look for when hiring are that the candidate:

  • has a strong work ethic – 73 percent
  • is dependable – 73 percent
  • has a positive attitude – 72 percent
  • is self-motivated – 66 percent
  • is team-oriented – 60 percent
  • is organized, can manage multiple priorities – 57 percent
  • works well under pressure – 57 percent
  • is an effective communicator – 56 percent
  • is flexible – 51 percent
  • is confident – 46 percent

If you want to know more about the importance of soft skills, just ask Frederick H. Wentz. He’s an expert on the subject and wrote two books used for training people so that they can recognize and develop their soft skills.

Wentz became aware of the need during his years working in the restaurant industry. “I hired a lot of entry level employees, and many came from communities that lacked exposure to soft skills,” he says.

He also worked training people in reentry and noticed that people who have been out of the workforce for a long time had the same problem.

“The biggest challenges (to those in reentry) are making decisions and problem solving. When they’re incarcerated all their decisions are being made by someone else,” he says. “Communication is another difficulty for them. In prison communication is just one way.”

Wentz goes on to say that, “The behaviors that people need to survive in prison are being tough and being intimating, and these are not going to work on the job.”

Four types of soft skills

Instead they need to develop soft skills. Soft skills can be one of four different types, related to:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Personal attributes

As specific examples, Wentz mentions, among other things, being:

  • Able to get along with others
  • Positive
  • Able to control emotions
  • Conscientious
  • Friendly
  • Able to follow instructions

In his book, Soft Skills Training: A Workbook to Develop Skills for Employment, Wentz alternates articles and stories about success with exercises that make students think about the importance of soft skills.

Some examples of the questions from the exercises in the book:

  • What do most entry-level workers lack?
  • In what areas do entry-level employees need the most improvement?
  • Why is it important to reach out and help others while at work?
  • When you do not understand something, what are three positive consequences of asking a question?
  • List five personal qualities you must display on every job.
  • How did Michael Jordan visualize and how did it help him? Give an example of how it can help you.

Job developers who work with those in reentry may find this book a useful tool.

And those looking for work might want to add references to their soft skills in their resume or JIST card. Including things like “meets all deadlines,” “works well in a team environment” and “communicates effectively” will highlight your proficiency in the soft skill arena.

Because employers are convinced of the importance of these skills, make sure you let them know you have them.

 

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.