Texas nonprofit hires ex-offenders to build houses for veterans

Maria Pic

Maria Schneider, Terra Shelter, Inc.

Maria Schneider is out to change the construction industry in Dallas, Texas, one ex-offender at time. Her way to do this: By building a nonprofit that sells rehabbed homes to veterans at below market rate prices and hires employees who were formerly incarcerated.

Her original plan was to rehab houses, but how she decided to hire formerly incarcerated workers came about in a rather serendipitous way.

Trained as an electrical engineer and a biomedical engineer, Schneider got started in construction in her late 20s. The only house she could afford to buy needed a lot of work, and she did it in her spare time. She loved the process and later launched a construction company.

“I had a residential custom building business in the mid 2000s. It was in Austin, and there was an economic boom there,” she says. “The only people I could find to work were ex-offenders, and I got to know them really well and started understanding some of the issues involved in reentry.”

These issues ranged from a lack of a place to live and bad relationships with family members to substance abuse and access to reliable transportation. Another issue was not having a way to make money, which Schneider solved by hiring them.

It wasn’t easy though. “You really have to start from scratch and teach them a lot of things besides the job. You have to teach them a lot of life skills and tell them what to do,” she says.

“But ex-offenders are excluded by a lot of places automatically, so if someone doesn’t include them they’re not going to end up with jobs. A lot of programs provide job training but not jobs. You have to provide them not just with the job training but a job that goes along with it, so they’ll have some income while they’re developing skills and be able to show some experience on their resume.”

After starting to build homes again and forming a nonprofit, Terra Shelter, Inc., Schneider remembered those workers she had once hired and wanted to create jobs for others like them. And she has. In fact, she has made it her mission to do so.

Although Schneider is just, as she says, starting out, her organization has already rehabbed five homes built in the 1920s and 1930s – most of which had to be completely gutted – and located in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city of Dallas.

She’s teamed up with the Tarrant County Housing Partnership. The organization works with several banks, which are required by the government to donate some of the foreclosed homes they receive to nonprofits as part of an anti-blight effort.

The organization began about a year and a half ago, when it received donated houses that were in pretty bad shape. “While our focus was on providing affordable housing, in the process I decided that what I really wanted to do was to work with ex-offenders and teach them the skills they needed to do the job,” she says.

Although working with employees who have been incarcerated has more than its share of challenges, Schneider has found many of them to be very loyal and hard working.

Up until now, she has hired people rather randomly. In the rough and tumble neighborhood of southeast Dallas where her nonprofit works rehabbing houses, she’s often approached by ex-offenders looking for work.

After dealing with the unreliability of some of the workers she hired this way, Schneider decided this recruitment method was unsustainable and has partnered with the Oasis Center, a nonprofit organization providing reentry services and mentoring that help formerly incarcerated individuals get a new start.

In the meantime, her site supervisor is an ex-offender, and Schneider tries to hire as many formerly incarcerated individuals as possible. If she can’t, however, she turns to veterans. Her plumber and electricians fall into this category.

The houses she’s rehabbed have been a really good learning experience, but as a sustainability consultant, Schneider is passionate about green building and would like to get into new home construction. “Trying to build green and affordable is kind of radical here in Texas,” she says.

But no doubt so is hiring ex-offenders. And both are challenges she’s determined to take on.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Is a college degree necessary to get a good job?

MP900314164Many college grads are deep in debt with college loans these days. You’ve heard the news. They can’t find a job. Living at home. Some have given up and don’t know what to do.

Which brings up the question: Is a college education really necessary? Can you get a good job without it?

Although there are a lot of conflicting opinions, the answer is basically yes, you can get a good job without a college education. In fact for those in reentry, it might be better to look toward an apprenticeship, certificate program or other specialized training that will lead to a specific job.

High dropout rates, excessive debt

Going the college route, in fact, can be a gamble, with the chances of graduation not guaranteed. According to the Institute of Education Sciences of the National Center for Education Statistics, (part of the U.S. Department of Education), only 59% of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their college education in 2006 had graduated by 2012.

And on top of that, 71% of those who did graduate from four-year colleges in 2012 carried student debt, according to the Project on Student Debt of the Oakland, Calif.-based Institute for College Access & Success. The average debt level for graduates was $29,400, a 25% increase over the amount of debt graduates carried in 2008.

To make matters worse, according to a 2014 Accenture college graduate employment survey, 41% of recent college graduates are earning $25,000 or less.

Although even with a degree many recent college grads can’t find work, the unemployment situation may ease a bit, if job creation forecasts are any indication.

Job creation forecasts show hope

In “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020,” a study released by the Center on Education and the Workforce of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, the U.S. economy will grow to 165 million jobs by 2020. This is a nearly 18% increase over the number in 2012.

During this time period there will be 55 million job openings as a result of baby boomers retiring and the creation of new positions.

Of the upcoming job openings:

36% will not require any education beyond high school

35% will require at least a bachelor’s degree

30% will require an associate’s degree or some college

If the total number of jobs are broken down by occupation, these are the ones in which workers are least likely to need a college degree. The numbers are the percentages of the total number of jobs that only will require a high school diploma or less.

  • Health care support: 42%
  • Transportation and utilities services: 45%
  • Manufacturing 47%
  • Leisure and hospitality: 50%
  • Food and personal services: 57%
  • Construction: 63%
  • Natural resources: 66%
  • Blue collar trades: 66%

No college degree required for these good jobs

Among some of the specific jobs that only require a high school diploma – according to analysis by Careerbuilder.com that was included in an August Forbes.com website article – are:

  • Transportation, storage and distributions managers. Median hourly pay: $39.27
  • Gaming managers. Median hourly pay: $31.99
  • Real estate broker. Median hourly pay: $29.48
  • Construction and extraction worker supervisor. Median hourly pay: $29.20
  • Legal support workers. Median hourly pay: $26.97
  • Postal service mail carriers. Median hourly pay: $26.75

Although these jobs don’t formally require more than a high school diploma, some jobs do require on-the-job training or participation in an apprenticeship program. The advantage is that the training is a part of paid employment, unlike a college or even a community college education. And the effort will often result in steady, well paying jobs that, for the most part, are expected to remain in demand.

Visit your nearest American Job Center to find out more about the training and apprenticeship programs your area.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Back on Track LA receives Second Chance Act funding

Graphic courtesy Johnson County Justice Center, Iowa City, Iowa.

Graphic courtesy Johnson County Justice Center, Iowa City, Iowa.

The California Attorney General’s Office has been awarded nearly $750,000 in federal grant funds for Back on Track LA, a recidivism reduction pilot program. The program is one of only four in the nation to receive the funding, granted through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act.

Back on Track LA, being developed by the California Department of Justice, has been designed to deliver critical educational and comprehensive re-entry services pre- and post-release.

It will build on the L.A. Sheriff Department’s Education Based Incarceration Program by working in partnership with several educational institutions. One of these, the Five Keys Charter School – established in 2003 in San Francisco as the nation’s first charter school to operate within a county jail and now with a site in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department – will be geared towards those without a high-school diploma or GED.

Others, Los Angeles Mission College and Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in the Los Angeles Community College District and College of the Canyons in the Santa Anita Community College District, will provide higher education opportunities that include prerequisites for community college degrees, credentials and certificates.

Among other partners are the Ford Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, California Community Foundation, California Wellness Foundation and the California Endowment.

Program participants – non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual crime offenders between 18 and 30 years old who are incarcerated in the LASD jail system – will be enrolled in the Back on Track LA pilot program for 24 to 30 months. Twelve to18 of these months will be while they are in custody and 12 months while out of custody.

“As the largest Probation Department in the nation, we are pleased to partner in the Back on Track LA program which will allow us to have further impact on the transition of inmates back in to the community by offering case management services directly inside the custody setting such as cognitive behavioral therapy and other mental health services,” said L.A.’s Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers when the announcement was made late last month. “Upon release, the probation team will also be able to assist in linking inmates to additional services in the community.”

The Second Chance Act, signed into law in 2008, provides funds to improve outcomes for those previously incarcerated as they reintegrate into their communities. Through a competitive grant process, this legislation authorizes federal grants to government and nonprofit agencies working to reduce recidivism by those returning to local communities from prison, jails and juvenile facilities.

Back on Track LA follows in the footsteps of a San Francisco program with the same name created in 2005 by former San Francisco District Attorney and current California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Developed for certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders, it reduced recidivism among its graduates to less than 10 percent over a two-year period.

In November 2013, Attorney General Harris also established the California Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry, an office designed to curb recidivism in the state by partnering with counties and district attorneys on best practices and policy initiatives.

The new division is tasked with the development of a statewide definition of recidivism, identifying grants to fund the creation and expansion of innovative anti-recidivism programs and using technology to facilitate more effective data analysis and recidivism metrics.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Kaitlyn Harger researches how visible tattoos affect recidivism

Kaitlyn Harger, PhD candidate, University of West Virginia

It’s certainly no secret that visible tattoos can be an obstacle to success, whether in a job search or in one’s personal life. But they can also land ex-offenders back in prison faster than those who don’t have them.

And we know this thanks to work done by Kaitlyn Harger, a PhD candidate in economics at the University of West Virginia, whose research focuses on the general economics of crime and recidivism. But among her most interesting findings so far is what’s she’s learned about the effects of visible tattoos.

In a paper entitled “Bad Ink: Visible Tattoos and Recidivism,” Harger examines whether visible tattoos affect recidivism rates. Of course, she admits in the intro, that it may not be the tattoos themselves, but the lack of ability of those who sport them to obtain employment, one of the best ways to keep people from returning to prison.

She used data from the Florida Department of Corrections Offender Based Information System to compare the amount of time that those displaying visible tattoos were able to remain out of prison with the amount of time for those having no tattoos or tattoos that could be covered by clothing.

The data was for all inmates released from Florida facilities during 2008, 2009 and 2010 – a total of 97,156 people, with 88% of the sample male, 50% white, 46% black and 3.6% Hispanic. It included not just such demographic data as gender, race and age, and a list of offenses, but also information on the type and body location of all of the inmates’ tattoos.

While 22% of Harger’s sample population had visible tattoos on their head, face, neck or hands, 63% had them on any of those places plus their arms or legs. Arm and leg tattoos would be visible if the person was wearing a T-shirt or shorts, which might be the case in certain jobs, including construction worker or a lifeguard.

What she found was that the expected length of time between release and reincarceration for inmates with tattoos in general was 32.4% less than those without tattoos. And the expected length of time between release and reincarceration for those with tattoos on the head, face back or hands was 27.4% less than those with tattoos in other places.

Of course, as she mentions, this could be due behavioral factors. For example the fact that someone chose to get a certain type of visible tattoo might be one of the ways they indicate a commitment to a criminal lifestyle.

Regardless of the reason, visible tattoos are costing states and the Federal government a tremendous amount of money. In the case of Florida, ex-offenders with visible tattoos return to prison 419 days earlier than those without. At $47.50, the average daily price of housing an inmate, it would cost an additional $19,903 per year per inmate with a visible tattoo or a total of about $418 million over the three-year time period she studied.

To read the entire research paper, click on the link below:

goo.gl/637Gn8

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

New Career One Stop site provides help for ex-offender job seekers

careeronestoplogo_tcm24-129Career One Stop – sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration – has created Job Search Help for Ex-offenders, an excellent resource for anyone with a record who is looking for work.

The site is basically a one-stop shop for just about everything one would need to know about conducting a job search, with tips and advice on how to find one.

Know your interests

The site is organized in several sections. People may want to start with Know Your skills. It includes a chart that matches various interests with job opportunities. Click on a job type, and you’ll find out how many people are employed in that job, wages they receive and the duties of the job, as well as typical training and also a link to job listings for each particular job which can be sorted by Zip Code.

Not exactly sure what your interests are? The site has you covered with a link to an interest assessment you can take online. It only includes 60 questions and can be completed in about five minutes.

Explore opportunities based on your interest

The assessment is just the beginning. A personalized profile will be generated and then you’ll be asked to decide how much job preparation you have or would like to have. Once you determine that, you can click on a link that will give a list of jobs. Each one has information concerning the knowledge and skills needed for that job, personality traits that make someone good at the work and the technology they might need to know how to use to do it.

Skills developed in prison

A job skills section highlights skills that one might have developed in the type of work that prisons offer – things like food service, welding, machining and sewing. A skills checklist covers soft skills like dependable, creative, flexible, honest, friendly and hard working, all skills that will be appreciated in any employment situation.

Learn about careers

The section on learning about careers talks about the difference between a job and a career and how to decide the steps to take in pursuing a career. An explanation on work restrictions gives general information about what types of jobs might be off limits to those with criminal records.

A useful link to the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, a state-by-state database of laws related to criminal convictions and employment. Just click on your state on the map and you can find out what laws apply to specific job types.

Another list provides ideas of common jobs that one might be able to obtain after being released from prison.

Setting career goals

A section on setting career goals offers tips on how to create short-term and long-term goals to set you on the pathway of long-term employment. A downloadable goal terminal with things to do and dates they should be completed is a way to keep on track.

A database to help ex-offenders find training in community college settings is searchable by occupation, school or program, as well as Zip Code to find the programs nearest you.

Those who would like help from a professional job counselor can search a database for the American Job Center (formerly Career One-Stop Center), which has free counseling, workshops, and skills training and testing, nearest you.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Root and Rebound guides employers in hiring the formerly incarcerated

Sonja Tonnesen, Alton (Coach) McSween, and Katherine Katcher

Root and Rebound’s Deputy Director Sonja Tonnesen, community partner Alton “Coach” McSween, and Founder & Executive Director Katherine Katcher.

Root and Rebound, a Berkeley, Calif., based legal advocacy nonprofit organization, has published the Guide for California Employers: Hiring People With Criminal Records.

Using a question-and-answer format, this 13-page guide lays out all the basics that California employers interested in hiring those with criminal records need to know. It covers everything from what they can and can’t ask applicants based on federal and California state law to the ins and outs of background checks.

It includes advice on how to weigh the risk of hiring someone with a criminal record, while at the same time protecting their rights. There’s a special section on benefits and incentives for employers that includes such things as the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program. It’s available for free on the Root & Rebound website.

Root & Rebound is a legal advocacy organization completely focused on reentry. “As far as we know, we’re the only legal advocacy organization devoted solely on improving the lives of newly released people across many areas of law,” says Sonja Tonnesen, deputy director.

“We’re reentry generalists—we advocate for laws to be fairer, and to support people with criminal records in achieving stability. Like a general practitioner is in the medical field, we ask holistically what a reentering person’s needs are to be healthy and stable, and we work alongside our clients to create realistic reentry and advocacy plans that will support their success and achieve their goals.”

The idea for the Guide for Employers came about from dealing with an employer who wanted to hire one of Root & Rebound’s clients but had a lot of questions about the legal implications. So the staff members decided to create a manual to help others who would need the same type of information.

The nonprofit was started in October 2013 by Founder & Executive Director Katherine Katcher and Tonnesen, two recent graduates of the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Their goal is to reduce barriers and maximize opportunities for those in reentry. They also work with a senior advisor who is ar reentry attorney based in Los Angeles and a growing legal and support team.

Katcher and Tonnesen spent last fall meeting with professionals – other attorneys social service providers, formerly incarcerated advocates, academics and other reentry-focused individuals – to better understand the needs and gaps in reentry and to create a strategic plan. They began taking on clients at the beginning of 2014.

Expecting to take on only five clients in its first year, by mid-summer they had represented nearly 15 individuals on their legal issues in reentry, as well as provided legal advice and information to many others.

The organization’s next big project is a “Legal Rights in Reentry” manual intended for those in reentry and their advocates—the first of its kind in California, and one of the first in the country. The manual covers eight areas of law—employment, housing, obtaining identification and other key documents, credit and debt (related to a conviction), family law, probation and parole, public benefits and continuing education.

Some of the information in the manual is a direct result of what the attorneys learned in their dealings with clients as they helped them face the multitude of roadblocks they encounter.

The manual will be available on Root & Rebound’s website in November or December. The organization plans to do a training program connected to the manual with workshops at government agencies and other nonprofits that interface with people who were formerly incarcerated.

To learn more about what Root and Rebound is all about, visit the organization’s website at. http://www.rootandrebound.org

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Oakland employer reaches out to hire ex-offenders

AshleighMcCullough

Ashleigh McCullough of Telecom, Inc.

Ashleigh McCullough, senior project manager of Telecom, Inc., is not your typical hiring manager. Far from it. And too bad more people aren’t like her – willing to give ex-offenders a second chance.

Addicted to meth for five years, previously homeless and in and out of prison, she turned her life around and now helps others who have backgrounds that would make them unemployable in the minds of many. But not Ashleigh McCullough.

In fact her company is dedicated to that effort. “We’re a second-chance employer,” McCullouigh says. “No matter where you come from, there’s always someplace you can go.”

Telecom, an outsourced contact center solution provider, employs about 100 people at its facility in downtown Oakland, Calif. The company offers technical and sales support and does order taking, as well as telesales, lead generation and market research.

Five years ago, after a six-month rehab program, McCullough went to Goodwill Industries for help with her job search. The first job they sent her to was a minimum-wage level telemarketing representative at Telecom. Five years later she’s a senior project manager who overseas the outbound sales department, managing about 50 people including four other managers.

As part of her duties at a second-chance employer, McCullough attends job fairs and participants in events like the reentry expo at Santa Rita Jail.

She also works with a halfway house. “When people come out of federal or state prison, I hire them and give them an opportunity,” McCullough says. “The project manager under me who I oversee came from that halfway house.”

There’s no box to check on Telecom employment applications. The company doesn’t’ even do background checks. “There have been one or two cases over the past couple of years when I interviewed people within the prison who had some type of conviction for identity theft,” she says. “For something of that nature, I had them bonded but still would hire them.”

And what sorts of employees do those who were formerly incarcerated make? “They make great employees. I can’t say that every apple in the bunch is great,” she says “They’ve been through struggles, but they give it their all. I have people with drug histories who have been here for three years to 15 years, and they become successful. There are members of the management team who have had their struggles and they’re still here.”

McCullough offers a few tips to help those with a record present themselves better:

  • Concentrate on your appearance.
  • Pay attention to the way you carry yourself.
  • Be reliable and dependable.
  • Go out with an open mind, because there are people who will hire you and give you an opportunity to grow.

How about employers who might be considering hiring those with a record?

  • Give everyone an opportunity, because everyone has something to bring to your company regardless of their background.
  • Keep in mind that everybody deserves a second chance, but no one can prove themselves if they’re not given a chance to do so.

McCullough has now been on both sides and knows first hand what it means to be given a second chance and how giving someone else a that chance can benefit not only a company but society as a whole.

Her example is proof of that. In addition to her career success, she’s a grandmother now and just purchased a new car. “I’ve continued to climb,” she says. “Working at Telecom has given me a second chance at a first-class life.”

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Pre-apprenticeship programs provide career path entry

Engineer Teaching Apprentice To Use Milling MachineThe trades are said to be ex-offender friendly and not only provide solid wages and benefits but also offer a career path to follow. The best way to get into a trade is through an apprenticeship program, and the best way to get into an apprenticeship program is through a pre-apprenticeship program.

Although there are a number of steps that you must take, if you do a decent job may be at the end of the road. The first step, a pre-apprenticeship program, is an educational program that prepares people to be ready to apply for a registered apprenticeship program.

Participants in these programs receive in-class and hands-on training that will help them develop educational and work-related skills that may make them more likely to be accepted into an apprenticeship. They will be able to improve their literacy, math and English skills, and be trained in such work-readiness habits as showing up on time and following instructions. They will also get a head start on career-specific training.

Pre-apprenticeship programs exist for quite a few blue-collar fields, including carpentry, construction, medic, pipe fitter and culinary trades.

These programs are sponsored by a variety of nonprofit organizations, unions and community colleges. The community college programs require tuition, but scholarships may be available and some pre-apprenticeship programs are covered by grants.

Currently there is no national directory of programs that we know of, although several organizations have tried to create one.

The best way to find out about a pre-apprenticeship program in your area is to contact your local American Job Center (formerly known as One-Stop Career Center).

Here are a few links to give you an idea of what’s out there. 

Washington State Programs

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries maintains a section on their website with links to a variety of pre-apprenticeship programs, including school and nonprofit based, as well as a program for Native Americans.

Maine Pre-Apprenticeship Program

The state of Maine offers a high-school level pre-apprenticeship program that combines one or two years of academics with 1,000 hours of on-the-job training during 11th and/or 12th grades. Those completing the program can enter an apprenticeship.

Building California Construction Careers

This site has links to pre-apprenticeship programs throughout California that are related to the construction industry.

Rhode Island Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association offers a free six-week Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program that teaches such skills as painting, varnishing, rigging, forklift operation and other things needed to gain employment in the yacht and boat-building industry.

Washington, D.C., Pre-Apprenticeship Green Construction Program

Operated by Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. this program is open to residents of D.C. and Maryland and teaches solar installation, sustainable building, weatherization and other things workers need to know to be employed in the field of green construction.

North Carolina Pre-Apprenticeship Program

This site offers a contact number for the state’s pre-apprenticeship program.

Hawaii Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training Program

This program, operated by the Building Industry Association of Hawaii gives participants an overview of the construction trades and prepares them for entry-level positions in the workforce and in apprenticeship programs.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Chicago-area tattoo removal organization creates mobile unit

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Chris Baker of Ink 180.

Ink 180 of Oswego, Ill., has launched a mobile tattoo-removal unit. The unit, which consists of an RV and two retired ambulances, travels to sites around inner city Chicago on a weekly basis.

Chris Baker, the organization’s founder, operates a tattoo shop as well as a nonprofit organization that does free tattoo removals and cover-ups, in which he imposes a beautiful tattoo on top of already existing ink.

“Seventy percent  of the work I do is free,” he says. “It’s tattoo removal and tattoo cover-ups for former gang members, former inmates, victims of sex trafficking and victims of domestic violence.  I also do cover-ups for people who cut themselves.”

About one-quarter of the procedures he performs are cover-ups; the rest removals. “I don’t do any cover-up work on the hands or the neck, and that’s where most of the gang tattoos are,” Baker says. “We want people to go out and get a job. In the tattoo industry we call those tattoos job killers.”

Making it mobile

Baker is an outreach pastor who does street ministry in Chicago. He looks at his tattoo removal work and the mobile unit as an extension of this.

The idea for the mobile unit came about during a meeting last summer between Baker and the Illinois Health Department to discuss a new facility for his tattoo business. Department officials suggested a mobile unit. Although a good idea, it was something Baker thought might happen in the distant future. But thanks to the donation of an RV not too long afterwards, his organization was able to begin its mobile unit this spring.

Word spread, and soon Baker had received two more vehicles – retired ambulances. He and a group of volunteers go throughout the inner city of Chicago on a weekly basis and have also visited Detroit, Kansas City and Indianapolis.

How it works

A church, a ministry or other group will approach Ink 180 saying they have a number of people who want gang and other tattoos removed. He works with the churches to make it an event that may include various other organizations and providers offering services like GED preparation or dental care.

Tattoo removal appointments are made ahead of time, and he has two or three people ready to volunteer. He and his team can perform up to 20 removals per vehicle and have done a total of up to 60 removals per day.

Baker never charges for any of the tattoo removals or cover-ups done by the mobile unit or the nonprofit Ink 180 Ministry. He raises money from donations on his website and from the many churches and organizations where he does public speaking engagements. He also often receives donations from the clients of his for-profit tattoo business.

To learn more Chris Baker and Ink 180, visit the organization’s website at www.ink180ministry.com.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Illinois and New Hampshire laws aid victims of human trafficking

Girl with a bar-code

Victims of human trafficking are often tattooed against their will with such things as a barcode.

New laws passed in recent months in Illinois and New Hampshire will help victims of human trafficking begin to mend themselves and get their lives back together.

Many trafficked victims, especially those trafficked for sex, are tattooed with what looks like a barcode, declaring the wearer the property of the criminal who engaged them in the practice.

In Illinois, House Bill 5858, introduced by Illinois State Representative John D. Anthony (R-Morris) and sponsored by Illinois State Senator Michael Connelly (R-Naperville), passed unanimously in both the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate in April and May.

The legislation allows licensed tattoo businesses to remove tattoos from minors who were former gang members and/or victimized by human trafficking or sexual or other servitude. Under the previous law, tattoos artists could not perform work, including tattoo removal, on minors without the presence of a parent or guardian.

Last year Illinois legislators passed Illinois House Bill 2640, sponsored by Illinois State Representative Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) and effective at the beginning of 2014, that allows victims of human trafficking who have been branded by their trafficker to be reimbursed for the cost of the tattoo removal treatments through the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Fund. This fund was originally created to reduce the financial burdens imposed on victims of violent crime and their families.

“Victims of human trafficking have endured unimaginable trials, and they cannot truly break free if they still bear the physical reminders of such a painful experience,” Burke said. “Helping to remove the tattoos that were forced on them, and literally branded them as property, is essential to helping these individuals live with the freedom and dignity they deserve.”

Meanwhile, this year New Hampshire voted in New Hampshire Senate Bill 317, landmark legislation passed unanimously in both the New Hampshire State Senate and the New Hampshire State House, a rare event in The Granite State. This broad-based law increases criminal penalties for the sex trafficking of minors and protects the victims of sex trafficking from  criminal prosecution.

As a result of passage of the bill, victims can now sue their trafficker for damages within 20 years of being trafficked. Victims will also now be paid for the removal of such identifying tattoos as barcodes  with funds from the New Hampshire Victims Compensation Fund.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan signed the bill on July 25, and it will go into effect 90 days after that.

 

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