Federal Bureau of Prisons reentry handbook provides excellent info for those leaving prison

Reentry handbook

Leaving prison and confused about how to go about getting your new life on track? Yes, reentry can be an involved process, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons has an excellent resource to help you make it through.

The agency’s 40-page  Reentering Your Community: A Handbook is downloadable for free from the internet. It is full of information about what to do even before you leave prison so that you will be well prepared to get back to life on the outside and be able to look for a job.

Three checklists give step-by-step actions that will smooth the way

Checklist #1 Things to do before your release. These include information on how to get:

  • ID documents, including your birth certificate and social security card.
  • Proof of your GED, if you have one.
  • Your medical records.

Checklist #2 Things to do immediately after your return. These include:

  • Creating an email address.
  • Finding a way to access the Internet.
  • Obtaining a photo ID.
  • Signing up for health insurance.

Checklist #3 Things to do to rebuild. These include:

  • Taking control of your finances.
  • Finding programs and organizations that can help you.
  • Considering whether to go back to school or enter a training program.
  • Starting to look for a job.
  • Rebuilding relationships with friends and family.

The handbook then goes into greater detail on many of the items listed on the checklists with instructions on things like how to open a bank account and understand a credit report; and managing child support payments and student debt, for those people who have them.

One section of the handbook focuses on major assistance programs like Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army, as well as government income, food, housing and transportation assistance programs. Each program includes a description of what it offers, and links and phone numbers to find out more information and enroll in the programs.

Info on how to take care of health issues

Another important thing that those in reentry need to take care of is their health, and the handbook includes extensive information on how to do that, whether physical or mental health or a need for drug treatment. There’s information on how to find a public health center, a link to a Veterans Administration medical center directory and mental health and suicide prevention helplines.

You can find out how to build your skills through education and launch a job search. It gives advice on resumes and how to prepare for a job interview, as well as recommending the online and physical resources of Career OneStop (now known as American Job Center).

The handbook outlines various legal issues those leaving prison might encounter and organizations they can turn to for assistance. The final section offers tips about how to rebuild relationships with people you know and love, since they will be instrumental in helping you in your journey to reentry.

Inmate Kevin Poppen offers excellent job search advice

Kevin PoppenAlthough we are regularly contacted by people in prison, it’s rare to receive a letter that offers the kind of advice we received from Kevin Poppen, who is currently incarcerated at Growlersburg Conservation Camp #33 in Georgetown, Calif. And what we learned from him can go a long way towards helping those who are incarcerated prepare for their lives on the outside.

We heard from Poppen after sending him a copy of our book, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed. He wrote to thank us for the book and encourage us to include what he refers to as a “reentry journal” in our next edition. And it’s such a good idea that we certainly will but don’t want to wait until then to share it with our readers. We decided to interview him by mail to see what other ideas he has.

Create a reentry journal

The idea to create a reentry journal came to Kevin Poppen when he was in solitary confinement. (He’s been incarcerated for 17 years.) Here’s the story, in his words:

“About four years ago, while sitting in administrative segregation (solitary confinement), I would daydream for hours and hours on end about what I was going to do when I got out of prison. For five months straight, I sat in a concrete box 24 hours a day, was allowed to leave the cell only once every three days for a five-minute shower. I spent five months staring at a wall creating budgets (all with arbitrary numbers, as I had no way of researching anything), playing out whole scenarios in my head about what I would do, where I would go, what I needed to accomplish and what might get in my way.”

One day Poppen grabbed a notebook and started randomly writing down his thoughts into what he describes as a “dream journal.” It even included a floor plan of what his future house would look like. At one point his sister sent him a box from Amazon that included a nice leather-bond notebook. About the same time, Poppen began to read Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed and three other job search books that we recommend. And he started to record useful information in his journal.

How his journal is organized

Poppen has several pages in the front of his “Re-entry Journal” for brainstorming. This section includes random thoughts, ideas, addresses and whatever. The rest of the journal is broken down into sections – housing, employment, nonprofit and social service info, and a detailed to-do list for once he begins his new life.

Where does he get his information? “Although some of the info came from the four books, but a lot of contact information and ideas I have in my journal came from years of slowly collecting. One inmate on the yard may have an inmate resource list of available services, another may have lived at a particular transitional housing location, another may have the address of a nonprofit that sends books to inmates.

“One good book I remember helping quite a bit at the time was published by Root & Rebound. (The organization’s Roadmap to Reentry provides legal information to those leaving prison.) Another way I’ve compiled info over the years is through inmate legal newsletters and magazines, such as Prison Legal News, California Lifer News, and newsletters from the Initiate Justice and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

Deciding what info to include

Poppen narrowed his topics down to the three things necessary for survival – food, shelter and clothing. And what one needs to obtain these things – employment.

Examples of what he included in the different categories:

  • Food – physical and website addresses for nonprofit organizations, government agencies, churches and food banks.
  • Shelter – contact info for transitional housing/sober living residences, Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) info for Section 8 housing options, etc.
  • Employment – Turnaround packet instructions, job search websites, temp agency addresses, and info on how to conduct advance Google searches and use LinkedIn and zoominfo. Also resume ideas, interview questions, a strengths/weaknesses assessment and other useful tidbits picked up from the books he read.
Further preparation

In addition to compiling the information in his Reentry Journal, Poppen is creating a to-do list. That way he can hit the ground running when he gets out.

Here’s a list of the things Poppen plans to do immediately upon release:

  1. Check in at the parole office.
  2. Visit the DMV to obtain an identification card and make an appointment for a driving test.
  3. Visit government agencies to see if he qualifies for assistance (food stamps/general assistance).
  4. Check in with residence (sober living home or transitional living residence).
  5. Go shopping for work clothing.
  6. Start job search.
Change your mindset

While a reentry journal and to-do list will form a roadmap for reentry action, those leaving prison will also need to examine their attitudes, according to Poppen.

“Their heads need to be in the right place. Whatever behaviors or ways of thinking that got them incarcerated in the first place must be ironed out. Do this first,” he wrote.

“Some serious introspection needs to be exercised. I have yet to meet someone in prison whose real problem was the crime they committed. The problem is the underlying factors that caused the behavior in the first place. All the rest is a waste of time if someone isn’t prepared mentally and emotionally. The first step to prepare for reentry is to figure out the real reason one was incarcerated. And then seek help.”

Once that is taken care of, those preparing to leave prison need to assess what their needs are. “Then I would network, network, network. Learn how to write professional letters, and go on a letter writing campaign. Write every nonprofit that deals with inmates. Ask for referrals, and write some more,” Poppen wrote.

At the same time, they should write everything down in a journal and prepare a turnaround packet. “If they don’t have enough content for a turnaround packet, dedicate some time each day (while still incarcerated) to work on the things they need to do to fill out their checklist,” he wrote.

Poppen recommends keeping a day planner to record the dates when people write letters and the dates any responses are received. Write a short synopsis of the content of the letter and its response. That way people can remember what they’ve done and tracked their own progress.

Final advice

And there’s one very important final thing to do, Poppen writes. “Anxiety should be addressed. It’s common for inmates to experience anxiety when thinking about and trying to plan for the future. This seems especially so the longer they have been incarcerated and the closer they get to their release date.

“It’s important they know that this is normal. They need to just put one foot in front of the other, and it will all work out. Being prepared is the best defense. It builds confidence and adds something to the equation.”

How to find temp work and further your job prospects

temp workIf you’re in reentry and need a job, consider applying to work as a temporary worker, or temp as they’re more commonly known.

And the best way to do that is to apply to one or more temporary agencies. These agencies place workers in hundreds of companies, both large and small, and in positions that include everything from factory and warehouse work to secretarial and nursing assistants. Whether you’re interested in being on an assembly line; doing data entry, bookkeeping or customer service; working on a construction site; or doing computer programming, look online for an employment agency that caters to your skillset.

Working temp jobs will not just give you a paycheck. It will also help you practice your skills – or learn new ones – expand your network of contacts and possibly lead to a regular employee position.

Although you will be working for a specific company, your true employer is the temp agency. That’s the one who pays your salary and, in the case of some agencies, offers you benefits that include health insurance and a 401(k) plan.

Both large and small agencies provide opportunities

While there are huge multinational temp agencies like Manpower, Kelly Services and Adecco, local smaller agencies are also good places to work. Some agencies are general and have lots of types of assignments. Others specialize in a specific industry, maybe health care, IT, construction or manufacturing. Ask around to see if any of your friends have worked for a temp agency. If they haven’t, search online to learn more about companies in your area.

Before you apply to work at a temp agency, however, check its website to see if it offers the types of jobs you’re interested in. Then call them to get an appointment for an interview.

During that appointment, you’ll fill out an application. You may also take some skills tests. Whether these will be typing, general knowledge, math or something else will depend on the type of position you’re interested in applying for. Although they usually conduct background and sometimes drug checks, many temp agencies are second chance employers. Therefore, you can be honest with what you tell them.

Find out about the type of jobs they have available and emphasize the skills you have that would allow you to succeed in those positions. Also mention the types of projects you’ve worked on and the machinery and technology you’re familiar with.

The schedule for the jobs they offer might be every day 9 to 5, a few days a week or possibly shift work. You need to tell your recruiter what hours and days you’re available and willing to work. Sometimes people are hired for a special project and sometimes to take the place of someone who is out on temporary leave or was laid off.

Depending on what’s available, some people apply at a temp agency one day and begin an assignment the next. If work isn’t immediately available, you might want to apply to more than one agency to expand your chances of finding work. Also, check in with  the recruiter at your agency every week or so to let them know that you’re still interested in a potential assignment with them.

How to be a good temp

Once you get the assignment, here are things you should do:

  • Although it’s a temporary job, treat the work with the respect and dedication you would a full-time position.
  • Dress appropriately. You can ask your recruiter or just look around the first day to see what other people are wearing.
  • Learn the company’s culture and rules. That will help you fit in and make a positive impression.
  • Ask as many questions as it takes to understand the nature of the work you’re doing and the expectations they have for you. Doing this doesn’t make you look like a pest. It shows you’re proactive.
  • If someone gives you a training session, be sure to take notes to help reinforce and remember what you learned.
  • Be flexible and open minded. Sometimes, a company might not have things totally ready. You may be switched from one desk or location to another during the first few days, for example.
  • If you finish the work you’ve been assigned for the day, ask if there’s anything else you can help out with.
  • Use the job as a learning experience and a chance to pick up new skills. In fact, many temp agencies offer access to online training. Manpower Group recently launched a program to offer GEDs to its qualified employees who don’t already have one.
  • Expand your network. Get to know the people you’re working with. If you aren’t offered permanent employment, they may have friends who are interested in hiring someone like you either now or in the future.
  • Ask your boss and the people you work with for feedback. That way you’ll know how to do things better next time around.
  • Stay in touch with your recruiter at the temp agency. And if they’re interested let them know about your experience working with their client.
What happens next

And after the first successful assignment, the temp agency may send you out on another. Or the company may be so happy with your performance that they decide to hire you for a regular employee position.

If you decide to look for a permanent job, be sure to list your temp work on your resume and highlight the experience you had there. Also ask your supervisor if they would be willing to act as a reference.

The experience you gained from your temp job and the contacts you made while working there might launch you on the path to being a regular employee. At the very least, it will give you experience, maybe some new skills, and a better understanding of what it takes to get and perform a type of job you may be interested in.

How to make an elevator pitch memorable

elevator pitch It isn’t often that we find a unique job search idea that we haven’t heard of before. After all, we’ve been writing blog articles on the subject for nearly eight years now and did a lot of research and gained extensive knowledge through writing our book, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed.

But recently we came across an article by Priscilla Tan on The Muse website that made us stop and think more creatively about the so-called elevator pitch.

Elevator pitch answers “tell me about yourself” question

Everyone who is searching for a job needs an elevator pitch, a 15- to 30 second speech that job seekers use to sell themselves and to answer the “tell me about yourself” question that almost always pops up in interviews. Its name comes from the fact that you should be able to give it during the time an elevator makes its way between a few floors.

The point of an elevator pitch is to draw attention to yourself and start a conversation. They can be – and usually are — pretty standard and dull. But they don’t have to be. They can go beyond the “I’m  (fill in the blank) who enjoys (fill in the blank) and has accomplished (fill in the blank), or the “what.”

Highlight the “why”

According to Tan, these speeches can speak to the “why” – or why you do the type of work you do. And we feel that they can also tell a story.

Stories can be used to demonstrate where someone finds meaning in their life. Offering the “why” embedded in a story can be a great way to convince someone you are a good fit for a job.

For example, a carpenter might say, “Ever since I was a child I liked to build things. When I was in high school I built a tree house that was the social center for my circle of friends. Since then I have worked on house construction and cabinets and have a special interest in building things from recycled wood, adding touches like stained glass windows from old homes that have been demolished. I love to be a part of creating something beautiful that people can use or live in.”

Another example for someone who works with computers: “I started to use a computer at age 3 and programmed my first video games in elementary school. I taught myself more advanced programming online and now design websites for restaurants and hotels, which I love to do because it brings out my creative side.”

The goal of an elevator pitch is to get hiring managers – and potential hiring managers who you might meet at a party or event – to remember you. It can also be a conversation starter.

Tips for presenting the best elevator pitch

But writing an elevator pitch is just the first step. To make sure that it is as good as it can be, you should:

  • Write it down and practice it every day until it becomes part of you.
  • Record it to see how you sound.
  • Do it in front of your family and/or friends.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Deliver it in a natural way that doesn’t sound memorized (even though it is).
  • Use conventional English – no slang.

Make sure you use your elevator pitch when you meet a new person at a party, event or in your neighborhood. You can never practice too much.

And who knows? One of these people might know someone who knows someone who just might be interested in hiring a person with your skills.

Eric Gentry helps community college programs provide pathway to reentry

Eric Gentry

The first priority of many people leaving prison is to get a job. But going to college may provide a better way to reenter society. Just ask Eric Gentry.

Gentry runs two unique community college programs geared to those in reentry. He’s convinced that education is the key to helping turn lives around. It certainly was for him.

Growing up in Vallejo, Calif., in a gang-involved family, Gentry had cousins, uncles and parents with felony convictions. Many were in prison. Gentry dropped out of high school. And, at 18, he and his brother were involved in a murder case, resulting in a six-year sentence for manslaughter. After being released in 2010 and home for only two months, Gentry was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and got two years.

A love of reading led to college

Never much of a student, Gentry read his first book in the county jail – and discovered that he loved reading. He devoured everything from Harry Potter to Noam Chomsky. A girlfriend he reconnected with while home for two months had enrolled at Cal State East Bay and often talked to him about college.

“I learned that I liked to read as an escape mechanism,” Gentry says. “She was saying ‘you like to read books? That’s a lot of what college is.’”

In spite of her encouragement, he took a job at a warehouse in downtown San Francisco after release. “I was there for three months and was in some of the same behaviors I had on the inside. I had an altercation with the manager and got fired,” he says.

It was following that brief job experience that Gentry decided to enroll in community college. He then went on to Cal State East Bay, graduating summa cum laude. After graduation he got a job as a case worker with an Oakland nonprofit, but at the beginning of this year was recruited to do work that will help those in reentry find their way back into society through education.

Community college programs for those in reentry

Solano Community College in Vallejo, Calif., where Gentry went to school, asked him to cofound a new initiative known as S.O.A.R., Students Overcoming Adversity and Recidivism. And this summer, he found out about another program, R.I.S.E., Restorative Integrative Self-Education, at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif, and is now working with that one as well.

Although they have slight differences, both programs are quite similar. In essence, they promote higher education to formerly incarcerated individuals.

Here’s how they work. “Someone shows up straight home from Santa Rita (Alameda County Jail in Dublin, Calif.), and I’m telling them that I’m the first step,” says Gentry. “I’ll sit them down on the computer and open applications for college and the promise grant (the California College Promise Grant that allows enrollment fees to be waived). I’ll also help them fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form.

In addition to helping them get into college and procure financial aid, Gentry assists students in finding jobs. That way they will be able to cover some or all of their living expenses as well. He also helps those at Chabot get bus passes. The programs provide snacks in the S.O.A.R. and R.I.S.E. offices, so they become places to hang out, where students can meet others participating in the programs.

S.O.A.R. currently has 22 student participants. R.I.S.E. has 50, with nine more starting in the spring.

Why go to college

Why should people coming out of prison go to college?

“I feel like that a lot of us coming home carry chips on our shoulder. We’re aggressive. We come from an environment where you’ve got to defend yourself. And you carry that out to the community,” Gentry says. “I came out and got a job right away, but I wasn’t ready to transition from a Level 4 prison to a job. You try to throw somebody into a work environment where you have to cooperate. And it doesn’t work. You need a transitional period, and college provides that.”

College offers a fresh start and a chance for those in reentry to get away from their prison background.

“The jobs that are offered to us are a lot of low-level jobs. And the workers are former prisoners,” he says. “At college nobody asked me where I’m from. Or where I went to prison. College allowed me to leave that life behind.”

For Gentry, the knowledge he gained from what he learned became powerful. “It was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced before. It was invigorating to go to college and to get a degree.”

And now he can offer that opportunity to others through the programs he works in.

There are few programs like S.O.A.R. and R.I.S.E. that Gentry knows about, but he’d like to see more of them.

For those colleges that might be interested in starting a similar program, Gentry has advice:

“Colleges need a lot of campus support. They need people willing to do the work, he says. “Everybody doesn’t have to like you or the work you do or the people you represent. Just don’t let them stand in your way.”

“Every campus has equity programs. If you say you’re for equity, this program is the most equity program you can have on campus. And if you’re going to start a program, have a space where people can come and be with other students who are facing similar challenges.”

For programs in other areas

Corrections to College California’s website includes a directory of other programs in the state and people to contact for more information.

To locate other programs, check directly with your local community colleges, state colleges and universities. You can also search the internet for community college or college programs for those in reentry, followed by your state. You may also want to contact the American Association of Community Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation report highlights second-chance employment

U.S. Chamber of Commerce FoundationWhen the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation issues a special report on second chance hiring, you know that the issue has entered the mainstream.

This summer the foundation released “America Working Forward, Hidden Workforce.” In the introduction to the 44-page report, Carolyn Cawley, the Chamber’s president, said, “(The issue is) important because right now – for the first time ever – there are more open jobs than people without jobs. Can ex-offenders help fill this gap? Employers are beginning to think so, and they have a lot of questions about how to engage this “hidden workforce.”

The foundation spent a year getting to know people and organizations that are establishing innovative approaches to reentry throughout the United States in order to help answer those questions. Some of these organizations are already familiar names to us. Others are new.

Organizations and businesses it highlighted
  • Dave’s Killer Bread in Milwaukee, Oregon was founded by David Dahl, who has a record of his own. Dave’s Killer Bread is one of the largest bakers of organic bread in the nation. And the majority of its 230 employees are formerly incarcerated individuals. The company operates its own foundation that helps other companies become second chance employers.
  • Edwins, a nonprofit upscale restaurant in Cleveland, runs a prerelease program in 13 Ohio prisons and a six-month training program to teach formerly incarcerated individuals how to operate a restaurant. More than 400 people have graduated from the organization’s pre-release program and more than 285 have been trained at the restaurant.
  • Café Momentum, another nonprofit restaurant, trains Dallas-area young people who are leaving juvenile detention to work in the restaurant business. Those who complete the organization’s comprehensive, paid 12-month internship program are offered a job with one of its community partners. Between 60 percent and 70 percent of Café Momentum’s employees are young workers with juvenile records.
  • Conbody was created by Coss Marte, who was arrested nine times between the ages of 13 to 27. As an overweight inmate, he lost 70 lbs. while incarcerated – through exercise within his cell – and helped his fellow prisoners get in shape as well. After release he created a prison-style fitness boot camp that hires formerly incarcerated trainers to teach fitness classes. His goal goes beyond mere fitness training, however, to bring young professionals together with people who’ve been in prison.
  • Late last year, Google announced that it was giving nonprofit The Last Mile a $2 million grant. The organization, which was founded in 2010 to teach computing coding to inmates in San Quentin prison outside San Francisco, now operates programs in five states – California, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana and Michigan – with plans to have 17 programs in six states by the end of this year.
  • As part of Arizona’s Second Chance program, private employers have been setting up training programs in three of the state’s prisons for jobs that are needed. Among these employers are members of the Central Arizona Homebuilders Association, who are teaching inmates construction skills that are currently in great demand. Inmate trainees must be within 60 days of release, and 50 percent of those who complete the training get jobs once they’re out.

In addition to the above-mentioned report, other resources may be found at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation website. These include all of the organizations and businesses highlighted and other second chance resources.

Manpower employment agency offers new GED program to qualified workers

ManpowerWould you like to work in a temp job and receive help with attaining your high school equivalency GED at the same time?

If so, you may want to look into applying for a position at Manpower. The Manpower employment agency is part of the ManpowerGroup, the world’s third largest staffing firm with 2,600 offices in 80 countries.

The company has begun a program to offer GEDs to qualified employees in collaboration with educational content provider Pearson. According to ManpowerGroup, 70 percent of all jobs require a high school diploma or higher, and getting a GED is a way to remove barriers to employment for those who may have difficulty securing employment.

“Employers cannot find skilled workers across all sectors of the U.S. economy from transport and trade to manufacturing and sales, and the problem won’t fix itself,” said Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America. “We know the biggest obstacle to learning is time, and this program offers our associates the ability to earn while they learn.”

The way the program works

Each participant is assigned an advisor, who they will meet with virtually at a time that fits into their schedule. Manpower employees will have online access to preparation and study materials for each of the four GED subjects, as well as practice tests and assessments. The four subjects that need to be mastered to earn a GED are social studies, science, mathematical reasoning, and reasoning through language arts.

The program is free to those employees who meet the qualifications, but they need to have access to a phone, computer and the internet to participate. It is also available in Spanish.

To be eligible, workers need to be on a current contract assignment with a participating ManpowerGroup office and assigned to a position which does not specify that a high school diploma or GED is required.

It takes less than three months

Obtaining a GED can be accomplished in one to three months. The assigned advisor will contact participants weekly by email or phone to check up on their progress and offer any needed support.

Doing temp assignments and participating in the program can be an excellent opportunity to get some work experience, establish an employment record and get a GED, all at the same time.

If you think you might be interested, visit your nearest Manpower branch office.

RAND Corp. research finds incentives can encourage hiring of workers with nonviolent felony convictions

nonviolent felonyEmployers are more likely to hire those with nonviolent felony convictions if they are given financial incentives to do so. At least that’s according to research conducted by the RAND Corp.

In its report – Breaking Down Barriers: Experiments into Policies That Might Incentive Employers to Hire Ex-Offendersreleased last year, the nonprofit institution published the results of a survey of 107 employers from 34 states. Most were from smaller companies of less than 100 employees. The majority – 58 percent – of respondents were owners or managers, with human resource professionals making up 21 percent.

Although the response rate to the number of surveys sent out was low – just 3.4 percent – it gave insight into methods that may help encourage companies to hire more formerly incarcerated job seekers.

The survey began by telling the story of two job seekers, each with a nonviolent felony conviction and the technical skills required to do the entry-level job being applied for. Although they have similar qualifications, each comes with the support of a different form of financial incentive if  hired. One candidate would provide the benefit of a tax incentive and the other an employment agency discount.

Respondents ranked the “applicants” based on whether they would advance the applicant to the next level in the hiring process or opt out and not consider them for employment. The survey also gave a list of issues that might cause concern in the hiring of someone with a criminal record and asked that these be ranked as well.

Two types of hiring incentives

Let’s introduce the two job seekers, what incentives they bring, and how these incentives would entice employers:

Applicant with a tax incentive   This incentive would offer employers a tax credit for 25 percent of an employee’s wages – up to $2,500, an amount similar to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. The tax credit would be applicable after the person worked 120 hours. Based on that scenario, 59 percent of the employers surveyed would be willing to consider hiring a person with a nonviolent felony conviction. If the tax credit were doubled to an amount of up to $5,000, or 40 percent of the person’s wages, the percentage of willing employers would rise to 77 percent.

Applicant with an employment agency discount fee   Since employment agencies are one way that companies hire entry level workers, RAND Corp. offered an employment agency discount fee as a second option. Forty-three percent of employers who were guaranteed a staffing fee that was discounted by 25 percent of the candidate’s hourly wage were likely to consider hiring a candidate with a nonviolent felony conviction. Raising the discount to 50 percent increased the number of willing employers to 60 percent. If the agency initiated a guaranteed worker replacement program, whereby it replaced an employee who didn’t work out with another one, the percentage of willing employers rose to 72.5 percent.

Employer concerns about hiring someone with a felony

As part of the survey, employers were also asked to rank seven concerns they might have about hiring workers with a felony conviction. These were, in order of the highest concern:

  • That the candidate might have had a violent felony conviction
  • Whether they had the skills necessary for the job
  • If there would be any workplace liability issues
  • The amount of time that had passed since the felony conviction
  • How the person will interact with clients
  • How they will interact with the company’s staff
  • The candidate’s ability to perform the work in a timely manner
Recommendations to improve hiring chances

As a result of what they learned, the RAND Corp. researchers offered recommendations to improve the chances of employment for those with felonies on their record. These recommendations are geared toward policymakers, employment agencies and organizations dealing with those in reentry.

  • Urge job seekers with felony convictions to use employment agencies that guarantee to replace candidates who don’t work out. Many agencies around the country have this guarantee in place and is something that employers surveyed were very interested in. The cost of losing an employee in terms of productivity and the effort to hire a replacement could be more than any savings offered as an incentive.
  • State governments should provide a way for employers to get information about a candidate’s former job performance. Companies often limit access to this knowledge, based on fears of a law suit. Especially in the case of those with criminal records, however, potential employers want and need information on the work performance and history of those they are considering.
  • Government agencies should reduce the amount of paperwork required to get a tax credit. The researchers determined that one of the ways to do this would be to have the forms prepared and submitted by a state government employment agency (like the California Employment Development Department, for example).
  • Ensure transportation to job sites. Employment agencies, reentry programs and probation and parole departments should work to make sure that employees have a way to get to work, since this is often a problem among this population.

How to buy a used tattoo removal laser device

used tattoo removal laser deviceIf you’re planning to launch a free or low-cost tattoo removal program and are concerned about the expense of buying equipment, you may want to consider purchasing a pre-owned laser device.

These devices are extremely cost effective – you can save tens of thousands of dollars. And if you know how to buy one, they may work out just as well as a new one, especially for the type of tattoos most people coming out of prison have.

There are hundreds of used devices on specialized medical equipment websites like www.dotmed.com and even general sites like ebay.com that offer a marketplace for used laser devices. But buying them on one of these sites can be problematic. Laser device manufacturer Astanza recommends that you do very careful research, ask the seller for references and search online for scam reports.

A better route to take may be to buy a used laser device from what is known as a certified pre-owned dealer. Certified pre-owned dealers are companies that buy used devices and refurbish them, so they’re in top working order before they resell them to customers.

They actually have an inventory and are not brokers who many times go look for the machine after they have a paid up front order. And it’s best to buy from a certified pre-owned dealer who provides after-sales service or can at least provide a reliable resource.

Save $100,000 or more by buying a used laser device

Buying from a reseller means tremendous savings. “It’s more than half the price of a new one. We’re selling $20,000 and $30,000 lasers that would normally sell for $150,000,” says Drew Shafer, owner and president of The Laser Agent in Indianapolis. “Some of the lasers we sell are older – like 2004 lasers. But if they’re maintained properly they can do all the things that a brand new one can do. I just sold a 2005 tattoo removal laser, and it’s just as good as a 2015 laser if the parts are well kept.”

The Laser Agent offers a couple of guides to buying used lasers. One, concerns why buy used instead of new. The other is about who to buy from.

And regardless of price or seller, many of the tattoos sported by those coming out of prison don’t need the most sophisticated equipment to remove.

“I don’t see the need for a very complex system with lots of color reduction,” says Scott Carson, founder of Oscilla Lasers and several other medical device-related companies in Park City, Utah. “Most of the tattoos that come out of prison are darker and homemade. Given the lack of the complexity in the color and type of ink, you can use older and less expensive devices. The only offset would be that if you’re running it 12 hours a day, seven days a week, a newer system would work better because you’d get a service contract.”

Buying direct from the previous user can be a mistake, according to Carson. “The pre-owned industry (of private sellers) is made up of “spray and pray” (spray with Windex and pray that it works). One hundred percent of the pre-owned lasers we bring into our facility have something wrong with them. There’s some level of functionality that’s limited,” he says. They then refurbish these lasers before selling them.

Buy from a company with technicians onsite

Carson recommends working with a pre-owned device seller that has technicians on site who refurbish the instruments. Companies like The Laser Agent and Oscilla Lasers can install the devices they sell and train buyers on their use. (This is very important to ensure both the safety of tattoo removal clients and optimum treatment results.)

They will also connect buyers with technicians through their network of independent providers who can service the devices that their customers purchase. If customers go to the original manufacturer for repairs, they often have to pay a recertification fee that can cost as much as $35,000. The main reason for that, according to Shafer, is to scare people away from buying from third parties.

And, in addition, the manufacturers offer service contracts, which are also quite expensive – as much as $10,000 or $20,000 per year. Servicing of devices can be handled by independent technicians, which means lower costs overall.

In fact, Carson’s company can geolocate customers and refer them to the technicians in the area, so they can choose one to work with.

Used laser company contact info

Interested in buying a certified pre-owned tattoo removal laser device? One of these companies may be able to help you:

Oscilla Medical Lasers

The Laser Agent
317-570-0448, 317-363-5460

Synergy MedSales


Astanza is one of the few tattoo removal laser device OEMs that also offers certified pre-owned devices.



Realistic job advice for those in reentry

realistic job advice

Qa’id, “Q”, Aqeel

At college commencement ceremonies across the nation each year, illustrious speakers urge graduates to “Think big. Reach for the stars. Find your purpose.” Sounds good, but in today’s world, they may be unrealistic ideas, especially for those leaving prison.

It’s important, actually, to think smaller, to take those initial steps that will get you on your way to reestablishing yourself in society.

The title of a mixtape by Nipsey Hussle, “The Marathon Continues,” reminds us that it’s a long race, and you need to run it slow. For those in reentry it’s best to not rush and put too much pressure on yourself, as that could be a setup for failure and returning to the old ways and landing back in prison.  And, of course, take your time doesn’t mean drag your feet, but rather realize that things take as long as they take and usually can’t be rushed.

Marty Nemko, a well-known Oakland, Calif.-based career coach wrote an insightful article in Psychology Today (its video version here) on a more honest commencement address with realistic job advice. He says that because of offshoring, outsourcing, automation and an ever-increasing demand for skills and requirements, solid careers that pay well are more difficult to achieve than in the past.

Take any job, and use it as a launchpad

As a result, he writes that “unless you’re quite a star, you’d be wise to take whatever job drops in your lap.” And instead of spending months looking for the perfect job, take a job, any job and use that as a launchpad for something better.

He uses the example of a gravedigger, not something most people would consider. But he writes that when you’re not digging graves, you could spend your time talking to the funeral director, the landscaper and the person who makes the monuments. Ask them for advice and get to know them. They might even have a job for you somewhere down the line. Then, if you get it, become an expert at that job, and you might very well succeed, since so few people consider that type of career.

Nemko provides the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that will give you an advantage in today’s marketplace, especially if you have been out of the official workforce for a while and are a bit rusty on your skills.

And Qa’id, “Q”, Aqeel, the post-release program manager of Defy NorCal, has similar realistic job advice. He comes into daily contact with people who face incredible challenges.

“I’m working with people who are lifers, who did 25+ years. When they come out they have all this excitement. It’s a brave new world,” he says. “They don’t understand that the world has changed drastically. When they come out you have people who say they can do this, they can do that. They don’t know which way to go.”

The direction Aqeel recommends is to start with the very basics, like obtaining a social security card, birth certificate and driver’s license. Take advantage of transitional housing and have a base to begin searching for a job.

Take the ABC approach

“Get a job, any job, so you can be able to save money to use when it’s time to exit transitional housing,” he says. “When people come out, there’s a lot of anxiety and panic attacks, so you have to curb their enthusiasm, so they’re not in a rush. They’re still acclimating to society. It takes some time.”

As for looking for a job, Aqueel’s philosophy is ABC. That stands for any job, a better job, a career.

“We have to have realistic expectations,” he says. “They don’t have a work history. You’ve got to get a job so you can have a work history and references. You have to start establishing a foundation.”

Take your time; don’t rush, but focus and finish.