ACLU report lauds benefits of hiring ex-offenders

hiring ex-offendersYet another study confirms the advantages to companies of hiring previously incarcerated individuals.

The recently released report, Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company, was prepared by the Trone Private Sector and Education Advisory Council for the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to the report, the problem of joblessness among those who have spent time in prison or jail is immense and needs to be solved. More than 640,000 people are released from prison each year, and nearly 75 percent of previously incarcerated individuals remain unemployed a year after they’re released. And “joblessness is the single most important predictor of recidivism.”

This lack of employment by those who have been incarcerated has a dramatic effect on our national economy, reducing the U.S. gross national product by between $78 and $87 billion in a single year.

The report states that:

“Research by economists confirms that hiring people with records is simply smart business. Retention rates are higher, turnover is lower, and employees with criminal records are more loyal. Given the costs associated with turnover and recruitment, researchers have found that “employees with a criminal background are in fact a better pool for employers.”

The report includes case studies of several companies and what they have done to achieve fair chance hiring.

Company case studies highlighted in the report

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Walmart – A case study of Walmart points out that the company has removed “the box” from its application forms and only runs a background check after a potential hire is given a conditional offer. The hiring manager and HR members are only aware of whether the applicant has been cleared for hiring and are not informed of the nature of their conviction(s).

Total Wine & More — Total Wine & More, with 127 superstores in 20 states, found that employees with criminal records had a 12 percent lower annual first-year turnover rate than those without. For cashiers it was 14 percent, merchandising employees 11 percent and wine assistants 11 percent.

eWaste Tech Systems — Richmond Va.-based eWaste Tech Systems created a comprehensive training program for the nearly 50 percent of its employees who have a criminal record. It also works with local workforce development center ResCare to provide services that these employees may need in their reentry efforts.

After showing what various companies have achieved, the report provides steps that others can take t0 create and maintain fair chance hiring:

  • Ban the box on job application forms and postpone asking applicants about their criminal history until further into the hiring process.
  • Consider each employee on a case-by-case basis, evaluating the nature of their crime and whether it’s related to the type of work they will be doing, as well as considering whatever rehabilitation efforts they have accomplished.
  • Conduct a proper background check by asking for only those convictions relevant to the job applied for. Choose a reputable agency, one certified by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), if possible. (The report includes a list of questions to ask an agency to ensure proper information is gathered.)
  • Make sure to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and various state and local Ban the Box statutes that may apply to your area.
  • Be proactive in reaching out to qualified job seekers who might have criminal records.
  • Create a process for dealing with applicants who have criminal records, and train hiring managers in this process.

Follow these steps and join a growing list of employers – more than 300 signed the Obama White House Fair Chance Hiring Pledge in 2016 – who are improving staff retention rates, and ultimately their bottom line, by hiring formerly incarcerated individuals.

Donate your used tattoo removal laser device to Jails to Jobs

used tattoo removal laser deviceAre you a dermatologist, plastic surgeon, hospital, tattoo artist or anyone else who provides tattoo removal treatments? Are you planning to replace your tattoo removal laser device with a newer model?

If so, consider donating your device to Jails to Jobs.

We help community-based organizations acquire laser devices so they may establish or expand a program to provide free or low-cost tattoo removal services to those with visible gang-related, hate or anti-social tattoos or victims of human trafficking who have been tattooed against their will. There are many organizations out there that would like to do this but can’t afford the price of a tattoo removal laser device.

And that’s where you could come in. By donating your device to Jails to Jobs, you will receive a tax deduction.

You will also have the satisfaction of being involved in something that can have a tremendous impact on the lives of others and on a community. Outside In, a Portland, Ore., program that provides health and social services for homeless and other marginalized youth, for example, was able to start its very successful tattoo removal program with a single donated laser device.

What’s acceptable

Any tattoo removal laser device in working condition. Older models are fine if they have been properly maintained.

Your donation will be tax-deductible

Jails to Jobs is a 501(C)3 public charity, and donations are tax deductible. (Nonprofit hospitals may be able to use a donation to help meet their community benefits requirement). We supply donors with a letter that includes the details of the equipment donated and our IRS tax I.D. We don’t include the value of your donation. You must work with your accountant to establish how much it is worth, but we can refer you to a few websites for used equipment – dotmed.com, medprolasers.com and thelaseragent.com – and related companies to help in establishing a fair market value.

If you’d like to be involved in helping those with visible gang-related, anti-social or hate tattoos – or victims of human trafficking with tattoos that remind them of their unhappy past – get them removed, please contact us. You will be instrumental in assisting motivated individuals as they begin to turn their lives around, find employment and become contributing members of society.

 

CareerBuilder survey highlights job interview mistakes and what to watch out for

interview mistakesFew experiences can be more nerve wracking than being interviewed for a job. But with a bit of awareness of what can go wrong, you will be able to avoid mistakes and make a good impression.

And a good impression is crucial, because it doesn’t take hiring managers very long to make a decision. At least that seems to be the case, based on the results of a nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 16 to December 6, 2016. Among more than 2,600 hiring and human resource managers surveyed, 51 percent said they know within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good fit for a position.

Along with doing your research about the company you’re interviewing with and practicing the answers to potential interview questions, there are some very important things to remember that will help you make a good impression.

According to those surveyed by CareerBuilder, your body language could be more important in making a positive impression than what you say. So pay attention to nonverbal communication, and be sure to avoid some common mistakes.

Learn not to make these body language mistakes

Here are the top 10 body language mistakes mentioned in the survey and the percentage of hiring managers who felt they were a problem:

  1. Failing to make eye contact: 67 percent
  2. Failing to smile: 39 percent
  3. Playing with something on the table: 34 percent
  4. Fidgeting too much in their seats: 32 percent
  5. Crossing their arms over their chests: 32 percent
  6. Having bad posture: 31 percent
  7. Playing with their hair or touching their faces: 28 percent
  8. Having a weak handshake: 22 percent
  9. Using too many hand gestures: 13 percent
  10. Having a handshake that was too strong: 9 percent

These body language mistakes are something you can memorize and try to avoid.

Worst things job applicants can do in an interview

The survey also found a few things that were even more problematic than bad body language. In fact they are the worse things that hiring managers say an applicant can do during an interview. And they could potentially ensure that you won’t get the job.

  • Candidate is caught lying about something: 66 percent
  • Candidate answers a cellphone or text during the interview: 64 percent
  • Candidate appears arrogant or entitled: 59 percent
  • Candidate dresses inappropriately: 49 percent
  • Candidate appears to have a lack of accountability: 48 percent

Keep all these tips of what to avoid in mind, and your chances of getting that job you’re after will continue to improve.

 

How to hire health care workers from a unique population – those with criminal records

hire health care workersHospitals and health care agencies and facilities are scrambling to fill a rapidly growing need for workers at every level. And there’s a population that’s eager and ready to fill those positions.

That population is people with criminal records, and if Johns Hopkins Medicine is any indication, they make pretty good workers. Johns Hopkins Medicine operates six hospitals and other medical facilities and has pioneered hiring formerly incarcerated individuals to work in them. In fact, about 20 percent of entry level hires have come from this population each year over the past decade.

A five-year study of nearly 500 people it hired with records showed a lower turnover during the first 40 months of these employees than non-offenders. A further study found that 73 out of 79 employees with serious records were still employed after three to six years. The organization published The Johns Hopkins Hospital Success in Hiring Ex-Offenders to explain why and how they do it.

Now other health care facilities that would like to hire people with records have a step-by-step guide that will lead them through the process. Chicago’s Safer Foundation and the National Employment Law Project have published A Healthcare Employer Guide to Hiring People with Arrest and Conviction Records: Seizing the Opportunity to Tap a Large, Diverse Workforce.

The comprehensive 61-page toolkit covers the why and how to of hiring people with records and offers success stories of those who have been hired and facilities that have hired people from this population.

Urgent need for workers in an employment sector that will become the nation’s largest

The need is urgent as the toolkit points out. During the next decade health care will become the nation’s largest employment sector, with an estimated addition of 3.8 million jobs. At the same time, an estimated nearly 700,000 people are being released from jails and prisons each year and need employment.

The toolkit urges institutions and organizations to seriously consider hiring some of those people.

“Given the burgeoning market for healthcare services and the forecasted competition for skilled workers, we encourage you to fully consider qualified people with records when filling healthcare job openings,” it says. “The singular demand for workers combined with the nation’s recognition of the need for criminal justice reform presents an opportunity for you to invest in previously untapped talent pools, including people with arrest or conviction records.”

This toolkit, among other things:

  • Dispels the many myths about hiring ex-offenders.
  • Explains why hiring people with records is good for a business because, it can
    • help enlarge its talent pool
    • reduce recruiting costs
    • increase diversity and corporate social responsibility
    • help an institution or service comply with federal employment laws
    • reduce turnover by hiring loyal employees
    • increase quality of health care by hiring people who understand vulnerable populations
    • take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program, both government incentive programs

The major goal of the toolkit is to offer a step-by-step guide to hiring people with arrest or conviction records.

Things to consider when hiring people with records

Here is a brief outline of the steps to follow:

Step 1: Be careful of the language you use. Not all people with records spent time in prison, so avoid terms like ex-offender or formerly incarcerated.

Step 2: Do not automatically exclude applicants with a record, and create fair screening standards.

Step 3: Ban the box on application forms in order to give people with a record a fair chance.

Step 4: Don’t make decisions on the applicant’s suitability based on what they self-disclose, because they could be confused or have misinformation about their conviction.

Step 5: If you must do a background check, use a reliable company and allow the applicant a chance to verify the accuracy of the information it provides.

Step 6: If employment is denied as the result of a background check, the employer should give the applicant a pre-adverse action notice with a copy of the background check. The employer should also indicate the offense that disqualified them from being hired and offer an opportunity to present evidence of rehabilitation before a final hiring decision is made.

Step 7: After all of the evidence is considered, either hire the candidate or formally rescind the offer in writing.

The toolkit recommends working with community-based intermediary groups. Doing so ensures a pipeline of suitable employees, and the toolkit gives seven tips on how to create effective relationships with those sourcing partners.

A section on workforce development best practices and a chart that serves as an example of a career pathway for a person interested in advancing in the health care field round out the resources of this useful toolkit.

 

How to create a nonprofit organization to support a free or low-cost tattoo removal program

tattoo removal programFrom time-to-time medical professionals, tattoo artists, organizations and others who want to start a free or low-cost tattoo removal program ask us how they can also start a nonprofit organization to support their efforts.

Establishing a nonprofit is a bit of work but can provide many benefits for those who choose to do so. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit you will be able to solicit tax-deductible donations, including cash and other assets, corporate gifts, foundation and government grants, and even laser medical devices or other equipment and supplies.

Of course, you can hire a lawyer to complete the entire process, but it’s also possible for people to do it on their own.

Here are some basics that we’ve learned about how to set up a nonprofit.

Perhaps the best way is to purchase legal publisher Nolo’s How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation: A Step-by-Step Guide to Forming a 501 (c)(3) Nonprofit in Any State. This comprehensive book walks readers through the process and answers almost any question that may arise. Although it’s possible to do it all with this book, some organizations might want a lawyer to go over the final documents before they’re submitted to ensure that everything is in order.

This is the way we at Jails to Jobs did it. We used this book and had a lawyer review the final documents before submitting them to the IRS.

The Foundation Center offers details on where to find pro bono legal and accounting help at its Grantspace website.

Consider a fiscal sponsor

An alternative to forming a nonprofit is to seek out a fiscal sponsor. A fiscal sponsor is any 501(c)(3) public charity that is willing to sponsor the projects of other organizations. Those organizations are then able to use their sponsor’s tax-exempt status to solicit tax-deductible donations and grants of their own, with the sponsor getting a percentage – usually 10 percent – of the total amount of money donated or grants received.

In most cases the projects must be related to the mission of the fiscal sponsor and be of benefit to it. Fiscal sponsors can also provide such back-office duties as bookkeeping, payroll and other human resource services, insurance, legal review and referral. They can also offer training and help with fundraising, communications and marketing. The Foundation Center offers more information on fiscal sponsorship and suggests books and articles to read at its Grantspace website.

It’s possible to find a fiscal sponsor through networking with local nonprofits and recruiting your own or searching online for similar organizations that might have an interest in being a fiscal sponsor. There’s also a Fiscal Sponsor Directory that is searchable by state and province (Canada) or by service category that may help you find one.

For many organizations getting started using a fiscal sponsor might be a good strategy, since you won’t have to wait for the IRS approval of your application, which can take months. Although usually if you’ve applied for federal tax exemption, opened a bank account, and registered with the state, you can in fact begin to solicit funds.

But having the support of an existing public charity and the resources it offers as a fiscal sponsor can be quite helpful and well worth the fee charged.  It can also be easier to receive foundation gifts, as foundations may be leery to gift money to organizations that don’t yet have a track record.

 

California’s CDCR STOP program targets those leaving prison who have a risk of reoffending

CDCR Stop

Tom Lucking

During the past decade, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has focused on rehabilitation in order to help those leaving prison have more chances to succeed, with the end goal of a reduction in recidivism.

One effective way it has done this is through the Specialized Treatment for Optimized Programming (STOP). A series of contractors throughout the state works with selected individuals in reentry who the California Static Risk Assessment has identified as being at a medium or high risk for reoffending. These contractors provide a variety of services — for 180 days with a possible extension of up to a year — to those leaving prison.

One of these STOP providers is New Life Community Services of Santa Cruz, Calif. It specializes in dealing with those in reentry who have alcohol and drug addiction problems.

“We pull people into programs within 24 hours of leaving prison. We continue the program (started within prison), so they don’t get into their old behaviors and go back,” says Tom Lucking, former executive director who still works part-time in the program.

New Life Community Services operates a 38-bed coed facility, but what they do begins in the prison.

“They have substance abuse counseling. They’re given a lot of services while in prison to prepare for their release. Counselors encourage them to consider participation,” Lucking says. “I go to provider fairs and explain what New Life does. It’s education, encouragement and counseling. In the end, it leads up to a decision for them to take advantage of all these free services.”

As a STOP provider, New Life offers 25 hours of programming each week to its program residents. This could be anything from anger management to substance abuse, as part of a curriculum driven by the state of California. The classes take place in the evenings.

Since it’s a vocational program as well, each participant has a job. “We have relationships with employers in the community who have hired our folks before. We help them (people in the program) with their resume, and then they go out and meet with these employers.”

New Life does treatment outcomes and uses screenings and measurements from Texas Christian University, which has done many studies on criminality.

Other resources they have found to be helpful and have utilized for program guidance and curriculum are Thinking for a Change from the National institute of Corrections, Terry Gorski’s work on anger management and the National Association for Children of Addiction work on celebrating families.

A majority of people make it through the program

“About 60% to 75% of the people make it through the program. It’s voluntary from the beginning, so that helps our ability to succeed in the long run,” says Lucking.

Even though a percentage of participants doesn’t make it, Lucking says there’s a tremendous interest in the program. “When I go to the provider fairs, I’ll have 100 inmates appear per session,” he says. He also estimates that up to 90% of those incarcerated have a substance abuse problem.

Those soon-to-be-released in California need to be told of these programs

“Surprisingly not that many inmates we speak with know about this available help,” Lucking said. Those on the outside who know of these programs should make sure any incarcerated family members or friends know about them too to help spread the word. Parole is involved in these programs and could also be a good resource and advocate and provide support.

What groups in other states can do

How can other groups in other states do something similar?

“The good news is that there are a lot of resources being put into addressing this problem right now in places like California and New York,” Lucking says.

“You have to find a friendly state system that will support this reentry rehabilitative effort within the community and build relationships and see if you get support. If you do, there’s a lot of opportunity there to be of help.”

First, however, Lucking suggests that anyone interested in helping to start a new program should contact their local county sheriff’s department or state department of corrections and check to see if a similar program already exists. It’s possible that those incarcerated and soon-to-be-released are not aware of existing programs they may be eligible for.

Setting up a program is no small task. There has to be a facility and counselors, and everything usually has to be credentialed. It’s also necessary to have connections within the prison system. Another way to get help is to consult with an organization like Center Point , which operates in California, Oklahoma and Texas and is the one his nonprofit works with.  Other California State contractors and their contact information can be found at this link — CDCR STOP Community Provider Directory.

Lucking is encouraged when he goes to pre-release provider fairs at state prisons, where the inmates he speaks with are really interested in and committed to getting out and using the services of his and other organizations.

“I walk out thinking that this is rehabilitation in action and it’s gratifying. It doesn’t have to be this punitive justice system. There can be a restorative justice element – something that encourages inmates to support each other.”

 

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.