Step Ahead offers job search help for ex-offenders, encourages them to discover their work options

Step AheadWe’re always delighted to discover a new resource for previously incarcerated job seekers, and we’ve found another one.

It’s called Step Ahead and is hosted by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and funded by Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota. Although developed for use within Minnesota prisons and jails, it is a valuable tool that anyone can use. Some of the resources are Minnesota focused, but the information and exercises are applicable to anyone anywhere.

Written in clear, concise language, the various sections of the website will help you learn what you need to know to assess yourself and organize your job search. By completing the exercises, you will have a better idea of your skills and abilities and how to apply those to your job search.

Useful exercises help job seekers learn what they have to offer

Some of the exercises that will help you focus on what is important to you and what you have to offer a potential employer include:

A strength worksheet that helps you learn more about yourself and prepares you for the inevitable “What are your strengths?” interview question that a hiring manager is likely to ask.

The matching interests to work options exercise that will allow you to match your interests to a variety of careers, some of which you may have not considered.

A value rating sheet encourages you to examine what’s important to you in a job in the way of achievement, independence, recognition, relationships, support or working conditions.

And then there’s a spreadsheet to put these all together, so you can apply what you’ve learned about yourself to your job search.

In addition, the website offers tips and info on:

  • Setting goals and creating a career plan.
  • Expanding your skills and evaluating the skills you developed from work assignments and training programs in prison.
  • Developing job search strategies.
  • Dealing with your record.
  • Determining the various types of interviews and how to deal with each one.
  • Creating a resume.
  • Learning how to network.

Although the Job Search Help section is geared towards jobseekers living in Minnesota who can seek assistance from the organizations listed, those from other states can get similar information by visiting their local American Job Center.

Here are a few additional resources that may help you:

New Beginners Job Search Handbook

My Next Move

Career One-Stop website for ex-offenders

My Skills My Future


State departments of vocational rehabilitation provide job training, education, other services

State departments of rehabilitationThere is one excellent resource that far too few in reentry take advantage of. But many should. And that’s state departments of vocational rehabilitation.

Their purpose: to help people who have disabilities find jobs. These disabilities can be physical, mental or even a learning disability.

The state departments of vocational rehabilitation provide job training, counseling and placement and can sometimes offer funds for qualified clients to get a college education at a public community college or public college or university.

Every state has a department of vocational rehabilitation, and they’re an often-overlooked resource. Tribal nations also have them. The majority of the funding (78.7%) comes from the U.S. Dept. of Education, with the difference made up by state monies.

Since an estimated 75% of people leaving a correctional facility have a disability of some sort, many in reentry may be eligible to apply for some of the services offered by one of the vocational rehabilitation departments. They must have a significant barrier to getting or keeping employment in order to receive the services, however.

What is offered by the departments is not an entitlement. People must really want to work and need to do everything they can to prepare for and find employment.

Few in reentry seek help from departments of vocational rehabilitation

The reasons are unclear, but very few people in reentry turn to departments of vocational rehabilitation, either because they don’t realize they qualify or they have no interest.

“A lot of people don’t understand they have a disability. It’s a stigma. A lot of people have no idea they may have a disability even if they’re taking medication for it,” says Alia Kuraishi, a statewide workforce development specialist with the California Department of Rehabilitation.

“It also goes back to people who are gang affiliated and don’t want to be associated with having a disability or being part of the system. We have invested a lot of time in reentry programs.”

Every state works slightly differently, but in California there are California Department of Rehabilitation offices in various counties statewide.

“We also have a presence in halfway houses and are mandated to be at the American Job Centers throughout the state,” says Kuraishi. “If someone can’t make it to a department office, they can connect with their local One-Stop (American Job Center) and say, ‘I’m interested in services through the department of rehabilitation.’”

Departments provide a variety of services

Those services can be a variety of things. “We’ve done education plans and helped with expungement. People need to be educated about what shows up on their background checks. We find out what’s going on in the local area and have job developers who are in touch with local businesses and know about federal bonding,” she says.

“If someone needs to go back and get a B.A. degree, we can fund training and education. If someone needs a training program to get work, we’ll look at what programs are available and fund them.”

“We will do informational interviews with different companies to see if they’ve hired people with criminal records in the past or we have the applicant do that themselves.”

All of these things can help those in reentry get a step ahead on the road to employment.

You can find a link to your state’s vocational rehabilitation department by checking out the Department of Education’s Job Accommodation Network website.

How to Create a Mobile Tattoo Removal Program That Fits Your Budget

Is it time to hit the road with a mobile tattoo removal program?

mobile tattoo removal program

A serious demand for the removal of anti-social and gang-related tattoos is not being met.

Free or low-cost tattoo removal needs to be made more available to those in reentry or leaving gangs, so they can start a new life. Many desiring the treatment do not know about existing community-based tattoo removal programs. For others, these programs are too far away, not accessible, or non-existent in their community or even anywhere in their state.  

Getting anti-social or gang-related tattoos removed improves employment prospects and allows people to become better role models for their children. It also can offer transformation, healing and even salvation, and be the catalyst for prosocial change, insuring that fewer people will reoffend and return to prison. On his American Voices Sirius/XM Satellite Radio show, Senator Bill Bradley recently interviewed our founder Mark Drevno, who discussed some of the benefits of tattoo removal.

The solution: Take tattoo removal to the communities that need it most

Many counties and nonprofits throughout the United States deliver preventive healthcare to vulnerable and remote populations via mobile clinics. Tattoo removal can be delivered in a similar way, but in community spaces or smaller vehicles, and at a fraction of the cost and less effort than a larger mobile healthcare clinic. Venues could be family resource centers, churches, local health centers or other community places.

Mobile tattoo removal programs can also be offered inside jails and prisons. This allows incarcerated people a head start, especially those nearing release, preparing them to be ready to look for employment and start a new life.

Additionally, offering immigration detainees the opportunity to have their tattoos removed prior to deportation eliminates the possibility of incarceration or even worse yet, death, once they arrive in their native countries.

Interested in starting a free or low-cost tattoo removal program?

If you are a nonprofit working with people in reentry or those leaving gangs, and are serious about starting a free or low-cost community-based program, feel free to contact us for a complimentary copy of our second book, Tattoo Removal: Establishing a Free or Low-Cost Community-Based Program, A How-to Guide.

This only-one-of-its-kind how-to guide is the go-to reference for nonprofits, medical professionals, technicians, tattoo artists and anyone else who would like to create a free or low-cost tattoo removal program. It includes everything from how to decide the best service delivery model to follow and case studies of successful programs to directories of laser device suppliers and rental companies and schools that teach tattoo removal and suggestions on how to raise money to fund a program. It also includes the Jails to Jobs national directory of more than 250 free and low-cost tattoo removal programs in 43 states. (Our most current directory is maintained on our website.) This how-to guide also provides valuable information to those who want to start or improve a for-profit tattoo removal business.

Surveyed existing programs for mobile best practices

Our research started by attempting to survey all the existing mobile tattoo removal programs we could find on the internet – 10 in the U.S., 11 in the UK and one in Canada. We tried to contact each of them by email and telephone, in some cases numerous times. After several weeks, we were only able to contact a total of nine, five in the US and four in the UK.

Even after telling them that we are a nonprofit organization offering tattoo removal outreach and program development, three of the four mobile tattoo removal programs in U.S. were reluctant to answer our questions and offered very little or no information. It seemed they looked at us as competition and didn’t want to provide any help or advice. Those in the UK were much more open to sharing.

The person we spoke to at one U.S. program offered to provide answers to our questions but only if we paid them a consulting fee, since they said they spent a lot of time figuring out how to put their rig together. Another offered to take care of our clients if we paid them to do so but did not want to answer our questions. The comments and reception we received reinforced the importance of our research and how this article should help many get a head start in establishing a mobile program. It also reminded us how a nonprofit could use their tattoo removal program as a social enterprise generating revenue by marketing their services to the general public at market rates to support their pro bono tattoo removal program.

Charging market rates to the general public could help to support pro bono offering

The tattoo removal market is a rapidly-growing industry. Astanza Laser’s guidelines for tattoo removal pricing are consistent with the market rate. Quanta Aesthetic Laser’s tattoo removal business guide states that $1,000 per hour or $200 per treatment are conservative figures. Those rates or even discounted market rate prices could be charged to non-program clients who want to get their tattoos removed and can afford the going rate. The income generated could help support a nonprofit’s community-based pro bono program and possibly generate income for other programs. Market rate customers could also offer valuable social media awareness and word-of-mouth advertising.  A social enterprise component should add additional newsworthiness to the program, while offering people who can afford it the satisfaction of helping those who can’t.

Who can operate a tattoo removal laser? Is a mobile program okay in my state?

The vast majority of states do not require a medical credential to operate a laser, although special training is required and a physician medical director usually needs to be affiliated with the program.  Always check the regulations for your state to be sure what the requirements are and whether it is legal to operate a mobile tattoo removal program.

And be sure to consult the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website regarding laser hazards and safety measures and how to be in compliance. Pay particular attention to eye safety and make sure all windows of the vehicle or the facility where the procedures will be performed are covered to protect from escaping laser beams that are below the acceptable ocular MPE (maximum permissible exposure) level.

Where can we purchase a laser for tattoo removal?

It is always less expensive to buy a laser directly from a laser provider than a specialty vehicle company.

Astanza Laser is one laser device company that offers substantial discounts and other benefits to organizations providing tattoo removal to those who have been previously incarcerated, formerly gang-involved or victims of human trafficking. Contact them directly for details on how their program works.

Most laser device companies should be caring and philanthropic in nature and be open to offering significant discounts to community-based programs and nonprofits. Remember to always ask about what is available.

A list of laser device companies that sell and rent new and used equipment can be found in our how-to guide.

Options that deliver your services where they’re most needed

With a variety of mobile delivery options, you have the ability to operate a tattoo removal program that is ideal for your organization, no matter its size and resources.

Pop-up tattoo removal model

Organizations that would like to establish a mobile program but can’t afford to buy their own rig or equipment can consider what we call the pop-up model, the least expensive option.

The pop-up tattoo removal program model is similar to a pop-up restaurant or pop-up shop that appears for a brief time – or sometimes on a regular schedule – in a space that at other times may be used for something else. These programs can be offered regularly at a hospital, school, church, club or government building.

With this model a laser device is typically rented. The laser machine is brought by a technician who stays onsite to ensure the device runs properly. You’ll need to recruit a volunteer, medically credentialed or not based on your state regulations (see who can operate a laser), to perform the procedure.

Professional liability insurance – something your volunteer performing the procedure should carry, don’t forget to verify – is required. Always check with your insurance broker to be sure your organization and vehicle equipment are covered with the proper insurance.

Team up with the local county or hospital mobile health clinic

Nonprofits might want to team up with their county health department or other local medical organization, if they operate a mobile health care program. There are an estimated 2,000 of these programs across the U.S. Mobile Health Map offers details on 700 of them.

If these organizations do not have an appropriate laser available for tattoo removal, you will need to rent a machine and find a suitable volunteer to operate the device. Be sure to check with the laser device rental company for the machine’s electrical requirements and then make sure that the vehicle can support what is needed.

The IRS requires nonprofit hospitals to allocate a portion of their budget to improve the health of the communities in which they serve. Fulfilling these community benefit requirements can come in the form of grants, sponsorships, in-kind donations and charitable contributions. A community-based tattoo removal program might be an ideal way for hospitals to fulfill this government requirement.

Modest vehicle, used high-roof van or used minibus, with owned or rented laser

A used high-roof van or converted used minibus allows you to perform tattoo removals anywhere a power source is available or from a mobile generator, using a rented or purchased laser. Removing the standard seating and adding what is needed for tattoo removal should be straightforward. We estimate that going this route would cost half as much or less than a new high-roof converted van.

If an outside power source is not available, the laser will need a generator that can be purchased or rented. Most tattoo removal lasers require 220 volts, but contact your laser provider to make sure. is an example of a program with a used converted minibus that runs an outside generator to power the laser, which is operated in the backspace of the minibus.

DIY with a used rental company vehicle, ambulance conversion or motorhome

Perhaps consider purchasing a used U-Haul, Enterprise vehicle, ambulance or motorhome to run your program. It is important that you know what kind of laser you wish to use in your vehicle prior to its buildout.

Jesus Bujanda of TattooEmergency911 converted an ambulance into a tattoo removal shop. It’s possible to buy a retired ambulance with relatively low mileage. He told us, “Some ambulances from rural areas aren’t used that much, so they might retire them at 30,000 miles or up to 100,000 miles, and they’re very well maintained.” You may find a dealer for one of these used ambulances by searching online for “used ambulance dealers.”

Chris Baker and the church community of Ink 180 Mobile Tattoo Removal came together to convert an RV into a mobile tattoo removal vehicle. The idea for the mobile unit came about during a meeting 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. 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.

As a do-it yourselfer, Baker suggests that $8,000-$10,000+ be budgeted for a vehicle and $5,000-$6,000 the buildout. He also recommends fundraising to purchase needed supplies and to get the word out about your program. The publicity can often lead to getting gifts of individual parts, equipment or even a vehicle. Baker put the rig together himself with volunteers through the local church.

Specialty medical high-roof van, trailer or RV

There are a number of specialty vehicle companies across the country that specialize in creating mobile medical units. Our hunt for specialty vehicle companies began by searching vehicle buildout association directories. We figured this option would provide us with a sizeable list of businesses to potentially work with. However, our most effective tool turned out to be the internet, which we searched by using “specialty vehicles and van conversions mobile doctor’s office.”

This method turned up 20 specialty vehicle companies around the country. Of these, 15 appeared to offer vehicles and buildouts that fit with tattoo removal services. We reached out to all 15, heard back from 10 and worked with each extensively to create drawings and budgets for basic tattoo removal vehicles. Ultimately, nine of the 10 provided us with a proposal.  

We have included the information we received from five of those specialty vehicle companies we felt were most suitable to consider, based on vehicle size and variety, buildout design and pricing. Each proposal includes concept drawings, buildout details and pricing. The proposals that were excluded were significantly higher in price and more than what is really needed.

We are not endorsing any one over the other and encourage those seriously considering a mobile program to look further to determine the best match for the specialty vehicle company, vehicle and buildouts that would work best for your organization and budget. Unless included in the quote, delivery, taxes and other fees may apply.

Most of the proposals we received included vehicles provided by the specialty vehicle company. However, each company gave us the option of providing our own vehicle, which we believe could possibly allow for additional price savings, by being able to negotiate directly with the dealer or even provide a used vehicle for conversion.

If you decide to provide the specialty vehicle company with the vehicle, it is important that they have the details of the vehicle you are considering and knowledge of how the vehicle is equipped. You also need to confirm that they will modify that vehicle to your specifications before you actually purchase it.

Each van proposal we received was quoted using either a high-roof Mercedes Sprinter or a high-roof Ford Transit. At 15 feet of usable floor length and 18 mpg diesel, the Mercedes Sprinter vans are the longest vans on the market compared to the gas Ford Transit, with 13.5 feet of usable floor length and 12 mpg.

Quality Vans, operating since 1974 and located in Tempe, Ariz., quoted us $104,400 using the Mercedes Sprinter van, including the buildouts. This breaks down to $50,000 for a new Mercedes Sprinter van, and $54,000 for vehicle conversion. This includes the $6,000 cost to equip the vehicle with a wheelchair lift, which would be used to move the laser in and out of it. A significantly less expensive option for moving the laser in and out of the rig would be to use a foldable aluminum ramp at a cost of several hundred dollars or less. At $83,400 they offered the alternative option of a Ford Transit van. These costs include $36,000 for the vehicle and $47,400 for vehicle conversion. This does not include the price of a wheelchair lift, as the Ford Transit van lacks the space to accommodate it.

It is our understanding that The Finery bought their Mercedes Sprinter from Quality Vans. The van they acquired was originally built-out by Quality Vans and used for medical imaging. After a few years of use, the vehicle was sold back to Quality Vans. The Finery then purchased the vehicle and worked with Quality Vans to re-convert the van to fit their needs. Changes they made included removing the lead in the walls and taking out an additional wall, which originally cut the workspace of the van in half. Watching for and being able to take advantage of cancelled orders and trade-in vehicles is another example of how to save money.

ADI Mobile Health, located in Tualatin, Ore., has provided mobile health clinics to doctors, dentists, universities, corporations, nonprofits and many other organizations all over the world since 1984. After numerous conversations and brainstorming sessions, they provided us with these blueprints using a Winnebago Fuse and a Ford Transit. We were quoted $150,415 for a used 24’ 2017 Winnebago Fuse 423S with a diesel engine, and $107,950 for a 22’ 2018 Ford Transit with a 3.2L I-5 Power Stroke Turbo diesel engine. Both of these costs include a $915 delivery fee. At $5,000 less, you can get the same Ford Transit van, but with a 3.7L Ti-VCT V6 gas engine. It is important to be careful reading which items are included as standard and which are options. As an example, ADI includes standard front air conditioning but lacks rear air conditioning. They can install rear air conditioning at an additional cost.

CGS Premier, located in Muskego, Wis., has offered custom fabrication experiences, allowing their clients the ability to create unique specialty vehicles, for the past 25 years. They quoted us $59,300 for vehicle conversion, not including the cost of the van. Vehicle conversion costs include resurfacing the walls, ceiling, and floors; installing seating, cabinets, and a workspace, electrical systems, a freezer, and the client’s chair and technician’s stool. If the specialty vehicle company allows, providing some of the items for installation can save costs. CGS Premier offered us the option of providing our own medspa or other chair. By purchasing our own $500 chair and getting it to them for installation, we are able to save $1,500 to $2,000 or more for the chair they specified. This can potentially also be done with refrigerators, freezers and other items.  When we asked for our logo and website information to be displayed on the outside of the vehicle as a graphic, an additional $4,209 was added to our quote, bringing the total cost of conversion to $63,509 (not including the cost of the van). There are many vehicle custom wrapping companies that could likely do it for less, another possible way of saving on the total cost.

La Boit Specialty Vehicles Inc. offered an alternative option: a trailer. Located in Gahanna, Ohio, and family owned and operated since 1981, they specialize in the customization of trailers and RVs. We were quoted $90,000-$110,000 for these professionally built out trailers. This price includes the cost of the trailer, and the price of conversion.

Used and less fancy can save a lot of money

Buying a used vehicle and using more modest, non-medical specific buildout may cut your cost in half or even less compared to new options. One example is a medical grade chair which can cost $2,000 to $3,000 or more, while a similar and perfectly suitable chair not provided by the specialty vehicle company is around $500. CGS Premier gave us the option to provide our own chair, and they would install it.

Some other cost-changing factors include installing a room divider, awning, wheelchair lift, access from the rear of vehicle, bathroom, TV or stereo system. Additional design costs, such as wrapping the outside of the vehicle with your logo and information, allow for community outreach about the program and other services your organization offers every time you hit the road.

Besides new options, specialty vehicle companies frequently have used inventory they’ve taken on trade-in that may fit your needs. Be sure to ask.

Used Mobile Clinics, located in Denver, Colo., sells used and some refurbished mobile clinics. Purchasing a used mobile clinic cuts out the cost of a total buildout, though you will still need to obtain and install a tattoo removal laser and be sure the existing generator can power it. In addition to saving you money, this option saves you time, as most custom buildouts, depending on the scope of work and the size of the vehicle, can take two to six months to complete.

Make the most of your budget; ask for better pricing on vehicle and any buildouts

Just as one might negotiate the cost of a car or any large purchase, it is important to negotiate the price of the vehicle, as well as buildout costs. All prices included in this article are from the initial statements of work we received. They have not been negotiated, and we expect that they would likely be lowered if negotiated.

Occasionally people cancel their custom build orders, and specialty vehicle companies are left with inventory they can sell to you at a discounted price, allowing another way to save money.

And if you are a nonprofit organization, always remember to be sure to ask for the nonprofit discount. There is also special government vehicle and buildout pricing, and we encourage you inquire about these deals and any others that exist. Because you’re operating a nonprofit program, you should be able to negotiate a price that is less than usual.

How is a laser device secured in the vehicle?

It is critical that the laser device, which typically weighs 150 to 300 lbs., be correctly secured in the vehicle. This is to ensure the laser will not get damaged in transit or otherwise, and maintenance costs should then remain in line with what is considered normal and customary. Each of the quotations includes the cost of securing the laser properly and safely while the vehicle is in transit and when it is in use.

CGS Premier proposed using a “pan” system to hold the laser in place during transit. This system consists of a bolted-in rectangular pan with one short side against the vehicle wall and the other exposed in the workspace. The exposed short side has the ability to fold down for the laser to roll into the pan, and can then be lifted and locked into place. The pan serves as a curb and cradles the wheels to keep them from moving. Additionally, the wheels should be able to lock and not move, and the casters should be of the type that lock. Besides the recessed pan type floor, the laser should be held in place by the opposing sides of the countertop and or tie-down straps as additional restraint, positioning the laser against a padded wall and/or wrapped in a moving blanket.

Quality Vans suggests inserting a belted tie-down system to the top and bottom of the laser. ADI Mobile Health created a bungee cord system, which locks to the walls around the laser. If the laser has wheels on the bottom, they suggested inserting a bolted lock-in system to hold the wheels in place, like they have done for dental chairs.

La Boit Specialty Vehicles Inc. told us they would collaborate with their team of engineers to create a custom strapping system that would specifically accommodate the laser of our choice with the surface area of the space it would fit into in the vehicle, while still allowing us the ability to move the laser in and out of the trailer. They guaranteed to take full responsibility for making sure all items in the trailer, including the laser device, would be safely secured into place through careful execution by their engineering department.

For laser devices that are transported in the vehicle but not operated inside the vehicle, cushioned crates, tie-downs, and a three-point restraint system are the most commonly used forms of securing a laser while in transit. Wrapping the machine in a moving blanket is also recommended. Many people convert the crates and boxes that the lasers originally arrived in to permanent laser storage. These boxes are already the ideal size for the specific laser, and adding additional cushioning and securing it to the vehicle wall makes for easy laser transit and storage.

Another method for transporting a laser that is not operated inside the vehicle is to create a two-sided cradle out of 2 in. x 4 in. lumber covered in carpet for padding, along with a track rail and ratchet tie-down system (Uline is one source). The cradle is secured and fitted into the left side wall and floor using the same track system. The laser inside its factory padded cover is moved into the cradle and secured using the ratchet tie-down and rail system.

To prevent the mirrors from getting out of alignment and altering the energy of the laser, the laser arm piece is removed and placed in a padded carrying case. That case can be the one that originally came with the laser or a rifle gun case with the interior foam custom cut to hold and secure the laser arm. is one example for custom foam and cases. The case for the laser arm can also be secured using the same rail and ratchet tie-downs.

To transport their lasers, The Laser Agent uses Ford Transits which contain walls that are foamed-in and have a strap system. Take extra precautions — any precaution you can think of – to make sure the laser is secure.

A couple of mobile programs we surveyed suggested having someone involved in the design process who has actually operated a laser. Lasers in constant transit may need additional calibration, making it important to have someone with a lot of experience with lasers be a part of vehicle conversion project.

Other than the laser, what needs to be secured?

Anything that is not attached and secure. The stool can be strapped to the wall, the chair, or under a counter area. The procedure chair can be bolted to the floor, or placed in a corner and secured to the walls. Be sure any drawers and cabinets are securely closed during transit as well.

How is the laser device moved in and out of rig?

In most cases for security reasons the laser device will likely be moved out of the rig when the program is not in operation. With weights of 150 to 300 lbs. per laser, a wheelchair lift or an aluminum convertible loading ramp is the way to do it. The cost of a wheelchair lift can add an additional $6,000 or more to your custom build but we have been told that the Ford Transit lacks the space for a wheelchair lift. A significantly less expensive option for moving the laser in and out of the rig is a foldable aluminum ramp at a cost of a few hundred dollars. These loading ramps are collapsible, and can easily be stored inside the vehicle or in a garage.

Check with your laser device company to make sure a mobile service does not void its warranty

For organizations that want to acquire their own laser, it is a good idea to check with the laser device company first regarding any possible warranty restrictions that a mobile operation might cause.

We do know from Nick Bergman, the director of Quanta’s Quantacares program, that using one of their lasers in a mobile operation will not void their warranty. Bergman said their machines come with a one-year service contract, and they also offer service contracts beyond the first year.  An option we see as viable and many times less expensive than buying a service contract beyond that which is automatically included by the laser device company, is to establish a $5,000 rainy day fund for possible future maintenance issues and replenish the fund as needed. It is important to review any contract thoroughly and speak with an attorney as needed.

We also know from speaking with David Murrell, CEO of Astanza Laser that they have a special warranty program for lasers that are used in a mobile environment. Murrell said that their warranty program is more comprehensive than many to begin with, and it’s always a good idea to review and compare warranties as one of the steps before making a final decision on a purchase.

From our research we are aware of an existing mobile tattoo removal program that uses a Cynosure RevLite SI, which is presumably another laser device with a mobile friendly warranty.

Other things to consider

Diesel or gas? Diesel can be more efficient than gas when considering the weight of the vehicle. Additionally, both the vehicle and the generator will be running off of the same fuel source, and diesel may best fulfill this need. ADI Mobile Health provides an informative comparison sheet of the two.

As shared before, it is important to know what kind of laser you wish to use in your vehicle prior to its buildout. The vehicle will need a generator that can support its voltage, while still running the lights, air-conditioning, etc. To make sure you get the correct power source, we advise having your custom buildout company contact your laser provider for the information.

It is important to have the option of a fan available during the tattoo removal process. The laser on skin and ink can create an odor, and a small workspace can become stuffy. Installing a ceiling fan or using another kind of a fan or suitable ventilation is important as you perform your services.

A small amount of storage is needed for Emla numbing cream, saran wrap (to hold the numbing cream in place on the tattoo area for one hour prior to laser treatment), anti-bacterial and alcohol wipes, paper towels, aloe vera and gloves.

With the availability of medical apps for electronic medical records, you have the option of recording client information on a tablet or laptop. This removes the need to store physical files, although paper files are still commonly used and are an acceptable practice. Review your proposed use of medical records with your medical director or other appropriate resource.

It is possible to create a mobile tattoo removal program on different size budgets

When we started this research project, we thought a brand new specialty high-roof van or trailer would likely be the go-to solution to create a mobile tattoo removal program. However, after completing the research and reviewing our findings, it is clear now that there is more than one way to operate a successful mobile program accommodating different sized budgets.

We are hopeful that the information included in this article will save those serious about creating a mobile program time and money, and generate better overall outcomes. Ultimately, we hope we have been able to provide the insights and resources needed to promote the creation of more mobile tattoo removal programs serving previously incarcerated and formerly gang-involved community members for years to come.

And remember, if you are a nonprofit working with people in reentry or those leaving gangs and are serious about starting a free or low-cost community-based program, feel free to contact us for a complimentary copy of our second book, Tattoo Removal: Establishing a Free or Low-Cost Community-Based Program, A How-to Guide.

Five pre-interview confidence builders that may help you get the job

pre-interview confidence boostersIf you haven’t been for a job interview in a while and are beginning to feel nervous, that’s OK and perfectly normal. Even someone with extensive interview experience can get the jitters or butterflies in their stomach when the day arrives.

But don’t worry. There are things to do so you can participate in that interview – and any others in the future – more relaxed and confident.

Here are our five favorites:

  1. Strike a power pose. – Few things are likely to make you more confident than imagining you’re Wonder Woman or Superman or that you’ve just won a major athletic competition. And there’s an easy way to do that. It’s called a power pose. About 10 minutes before your interview, go into the bathroom, put your hands on your hips – like Wonder Woman or Superman – and pose for a couple of minutes. If you prefer another style, pump your arms up into the air like athletes do after they cross the finish line or finish a competition. Try it. It works, and there are scientific studies to prove it.


  1. Dress for success. – As they say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” And much of that first impression may come from the way you dress for the interview. Research the company where you’re interviewing to get an idea of the employee dress style and dress a bit above that. Wear something that feels comfortable and that you know looks good on you. If you can’t afford interview attire, try to find an organization in your area that will supply you with free professional clothing. And don’t forget. The most important thing you can wear is a smile, and there is research to back up this claim.


  1. Get a pep talk. – Ask a close friend or relative to call you a few hours before the interview to say some good things about you. Encourage them to tell you what your strong points are, the reasons that you’re an excellent candidate for the job, and why they should hire you.


  1. Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more. – There are few things that will give you more confidence than being prepared for an interview. Rehearse the way you will introduce yourself to the hiring manager in front of a mirror, and practice giving a confident handshake. Search the Internet for job interview questions, and rehearse the answers out loud. Research the company where you’re applying so you understand what they do and can tailor your answers accordingly.


  1. Remind yourself that you were chosen. – And most important of all, remember that you were selected to be considered for the job. Out of those who have applied, the hiring manager believes that you are a viable candidate for serious consideration. Keep this fact in mind. It can be the best confidence booster of all.



How to dress for an interview and for success at work

How to dressWhat you decide to wear for an interview can help make or break your chances of getting the job.

It’s important to make a positive impression by dressing appropriately. Studies have shown that hiring managers make a decision on a particular candidate within the first few minutes of the interview. Their opinion is based on how they dress, their body language, their handshake and the way they speak.

Before the interview you need to do a bit of homework. Be sure to look at the company’s website to see pictures of employees and what they wear. Many job search experts suggest dressing a bit better than what you would wear every day for the job being applied for, but don’t overdo it. Dressing appropriately shows you understand the company culture and will be likely to fit in.

Where to find free interview clothing

Once you understand the dress style, you can go shopping and purchase an interview outfit, if you can afford one. Otherwise you can go to one of the nonprofits that give away free interview clothing and work with them to create something to wear. You may be able to find one of these nonprofits in our online directory of organizations nationwide.

Job search experts recommend that women should not overdue the makeup. In fact, many say to wear as little as possible. Pay attention to shoes, which should match the style of your outfit and be comfortable and polished. Needless to say, tattoos should be covered, if at all possible. And don’t forget to wear a smile.

The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident, so you will do well in the interview.

Once you get the job, then what?

After spending the first few days at your new employer, you’ll have an even better understanding of what’s considered acceptable attire.

Payscale survey finds most companies have dress codes

In a survey conducted by Payscale of 34,000 employees between November 2016 and January 2017, 49% said their company had an explicit dress code. Another 19% said that although there is not a dress code, pressure exists to dress a certain way.

The research found that companies in western states were most likely to have a casual dress code, while those in the southeast were least likely to have one.

And it also found a correlation between dress style and salary. The median salary for employees at companies with a:

  • Formal business dress code is $57,800.
  • Business casual dress code is $53,700.
  • Business Casual dress code is $50,300.
  • Requirement to wear work uniforms is $38,300.
How to dress for success at your new job

Be sure to understand and follow your company’s dress code, if there is one. Otherwise just look around and determine what people doing a job similar to yours are wearing and what the bosses are wearing to get a good understanding of the company’s dress culture.

Here are a few tips that women may want to follow:

  • Don’t wear clothes that are too flashy or look like you’d rather be in a nightclub than at work.
  • Make sure your dress or blouse is not too revealing. In other words, don’t show cleavage.
  • Skirts and dresses should not be shorter than knee-length.
  • Avoid heavy makeup.
  • Super high heeled shoes are not only inappropriate, but they can be difficult to walk in.
  • Don’t make a statement with your jewelry. Keep it simple and conservative.
  • Avoid wearing fake fingernails, and if you use nail polish make sure it’s not an unusual or eccentric color and that all of your fingernails are painted the same color.
  • Cover up tattoos, if possible.
  • Avoid wearing strong perfume.

Here are a few tips that men may want to follow:

  • In most office jobs, khaki pants and long-sleeved button-down shirts will work just fine.
  • Those who must wear a suit should stick with white or pastel colored shirts and black, gray or dark blue slacks with a matching coat or a sports coat.
  • Make sure your tie is properly tied if you have to wear one.
  • Avoid boldly designed ties. Rather, stick to single colors or simple designs.
  • Choose brown or black leather shoes, and be sure to keep them polished.
  • If T-shirts are allowed, be careful not to wear any with inappropriate designs or messages.
  • Cover up tattoos, if possible.
  • Avoid wearing strong cologne.

Above all, it’s important to remember that the whole point of proper attire is to draw attention to the talent you bring to the job and your abilities to perform the work rather than what you look like and the clothes you wear.

New documentary D’Inked takes viewers into brave new world of laser tattoo removal

laser tattoo removalMany in reentry are determined to get their unwanted tattoos removed, so they can find employment and start a new life. But what’s the process really like?

In their recently released documentary D’Inked, filmmakers Jacob Tillman and Ben Pierce take viewers on a journey through the world of tattoo removal. They examine the development of laser tattoo removal technology and how it has changed the culture of tattoos.

We meet people who’ve had their tattoos taken off, both professionally and through their own efforts. And some were disasters. Like the guy who attempted to remove his face tattoo with a soldering iron and a woman whose laser mistreatment produced giant sized blisters.

The focus, however, is on Tillman himself – Director Pierce has no tattoos – as he documents his five-year effort to have a full color half sleeve tattoo removed and covered up.

The tattoos that make up the half sleeve are just three of Jacob’s eight tattoos. He had the one on his ring finger taken off without numbing cream so he’d remember the fact that “he’s an idiot and shouldn’t have gotten it done.”

But the main work was the half sleeve, which he said was a mistake from the beginning. “I got the tattoo in 2009-2010. I knew instantly when I got the very last one that I wanted it removed, so in 2011 I started doing research and discovered there weren’t that many places out there (doing removals) at the time.

“After a lot of research, we ended up at Rethink the Ink in Denver with the Quanta laser.” For the next 3-1/2 years Tillman flew to Denver for the 16 treatments required and after that looked for a tattoo artist to do a cover-up. He found that person in San Diego.

In addition to the footage of some of his many treatments, the film includes Interviews with dozens of tattoo artists and laser technology industry leaders. The interviews highlight the fact that tattoo removal is becoming a totally acceptable practice – although for the clients, it’s a long and painful process.

Reasons Tillman and Pierce decided to make D’Inked

So why did they decide to make a documentary?

“There are a lot of reasons,” Tillman says. “I felt if I was going through this I wanted something positive to come out of it. I thought people would see the film and say it’s an incredible transformation.”

He also wants to warn people of the problems that can arise. The people doing tattoo removals can make a mistake and turn the laser up high enough to scar you. And a lot of doctors are using lasers that are for hair removal but turn them up as well, he says.

So you have to be very selective in who you choose to do a removal. “It’s the same process as finding a tattoo artist. You have to look around and find one who will do a good job for you,” Tillman says. “You have to make sure they’re using the proper equipment and have had a lot of clients in the past.”

The two men became so interested in the process of tattoo removal that they both got certified to do the procedures themselves. They took the course at Denver’s A Laser Academy, co-founded by Victor Beyer, who did Tillman’s tattoo removal.

Lessons learned

There were many things that Tillman and Pierce learned from making this movie:

Tillman:  If people are at a crossroads for wanting something removed, the technology has caught up and there is a way to do it. The industry has changed so much, and people are more receptive to it. There are tattoo shops that are also tattoo removal shops so they work hand in hand.

Pierce: We’re both very surprised at how accepting tattoo artists are of tattoo removal. It’s a reversal of what they do. Most of the artists we met – over 30 – have had some sort of removal themselves. They ran out of space on their bodies and wanted to do something different, so they had to remove what was already there. The acceptance of tattoo removal has to start with the artists if it’s going to be acceptable in society.

And the tattoo artists are very approachable. They’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and the culture of tattoos is a culture of love. Every person we met enjoys giving tattoos and getting tattoos. It’s a warm and welcoming culture.

Where to see D’Inked

The film was released on Amazon Prime late last year. It is also on YouTube and will be released on iTunes in June. The filmmakers appeared at the Covellite International Film Festival in Butte, Montana, in September and are applying to participate in more film festivals. They also hope to show D’Inked in many of the cities where they filmed. These include San Diego, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Denver.

If you’re in reentry and would like to have your own tattoos removed, check out the Jails to Jobs national directory of free and low-cost tattoo removal programs to find out if there is one in your areas.

Recent research on how ex-felons find success in the military could have implications for private employers

ex-felons find success in the militaryThose employers who have doubts about hiring employees with criminal records may want to check out a new study that followed 1.3 million ex-offenders and non-offenders who enlisted in the U.S. military between 2002 and 2009.

Conducted by researchers at UMass Amherst, Harvard and George Washington University, the study found that ex-felons are promoted more rapidly and to higher ranks than other enlistees.

In fact, enlistees with felony waivers are 32 percent more likely to be promoted to the rank of sergeant. Felony waivers are given to those with felony convictions after an extensive “whole person review” to determine whether the potential recruit is suitable for employment.

Reasons ex-felons find success in the military

There are several reasons why those with felony waivers might find success in the military (and some of these could apply to the private sector as well):

  • The “whole person review” conducted by the military selects those that are most likely to succeed.
  • With a belief that, in general, their job prospects may be poor, recruits with felony waivers may be willing to work harder and be more invested in making the military their career.
  • Members of the military are subjected to intense discipline and are under surveillance night and day.
  • Felony-waiver enlistees in the study were twice as likely to have earned a GED and twice as likely to have some college education as non-ex-felon enlistees.

In contrast to the success of enlistees with felony waivers, however, the research found that slightly more ex-felons (6.6%) were discharged for committing a legal offense (breaking military law) than non-ex-felons (5%).

Significance of study

This study is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that “The military is the only large-scale employer that has accommodated the hiring of ex-felons in significant numbers,” says Jennifer Lundquist, professor of sociology and associate dean of research and faculty development for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UMass Amherst and lead author on the report.

“Moreover, it carefully measures and documents their performance over time. While generalizability to the civilian labor force remains an open question, these data allow us to assess the important question of ex-offender work performance across a wide range of occupations and with multiple dimensions of performance. We hope that future research and data collection will extend this analysis to the few civilian contexts that regularly hire ex-felons to test whether our results are replicated in nonmilitary contexts.”

Although the military is not a typical employer, other recent research, such as that done by the ACLU, found that retention rates are higher, turnover is lower, and employees with criminal records are more loyal to the private-sector employers that hire them than are those without a record.

The complete study of ex-felons in the military, “Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers,” appears in the March issue of the journal Social Forces.

Need free interview clothing? New Jails to Jobs online directory can help you find it

free interview clothingAre you ready to look for a job but afraid you can’t come up with the money to buy the clothes you need to wear? Don’t let that stop you.

Although for those in reentry, a new suit, dress or other clothing, along with shoes and accessories, can be prohibitively expensive, it’s possible to get all of these for free.

Yes, for free – thanks to hundreds of organizations across North America that are dedicated to providing clothing to those who are searching for work and need professional attire. And you can find them in our unique new online directory.

In fact, our research team has spent hundreds of hours scouring the internet and publications and making phone calls and found nearly 1,300 of these organizations.

Some, like Dress for Success, Salvation Army and Goodwill, are major organizations with a worldwide presence. Others are tiny operations that may be open only a day or two a month.

Many are run by churches and religious organizations. Or they may be a project of the Junior League or Urban League. Some are part of food banks or organizations that help the homeless. Others are a service provided by reentry organizations or government agencies.

There are organizations that only offer women’s clothing. And those that only cater to men. But many offer clothing for both. It’s all spelled out in our directory.

For job seekers who are looking for more than just clothing, some of the organizations offer job search counseling, help with resumes, mock interviews and other assistance, usually provided by a corps of dedicated volunteers.

So check out our directory and let us know what you think. If you’re aware of a program in your area that’s not included, please send us a link to its website and we’ll add it to our database.

Former inmate Alicia Brown develops empowerment program to help those in reentry succeed

Alicia Brown

Alicia Brown

Alicia Brown, a former Indiana inmate, is using our book Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed as part of an empowerment workshop she’s created to help those in prison succeed when released.

She developed her seminar series F.A.N.S — Fresh Attitudes for New Success – during time spent at Madison (Ind.) Correctional Facility in 2016, where she was incarcerated for prescription drug fraud. The idea came after her business technology instructor, Mary Shipman, gave her our book.

“I was going through a hard time in my incarceration, and she saw I needed a pick me up. She said, “I think you need this,” and gave the book to me on Friday. By Monday I had finished it.”

“I talked to some of the women in my dorm about it and saw such a need for this information. With mass incarceration, there are not enough people to help those who are incarcerated when it’s time for them to leave. They give out these very generic release plans, and you’re free to go. But you’re not really prepared for what’s going to happen. Prisons don’t have a really good setup for success.”

Brown gave her workshop to other inmates and made a great impression on her teacher. “She’s really found her passion. She goes and gives these presentations and empowers women. I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Shipman.

According to Brown, it was such a great experience that she decided she would eventually give her workshop after getting out of prison. But first she had to find a job.

She found a job in a week

Inspired by our book, she knew she had to do whatever it took to get a job.

“It only took one week. I used the skills from the book, and I went to the first job I could find that would hire me. I worked at the local Humane Society and scooped up poop for six months. I stayed that long to have the continuity that the book talks about,” she says.

And it was worth the effort. Brown now has a job working the front desk at Varsity Clubs of America, an all-suite hotel in South Bend, Ind. She says she got the job by the cold calling technique we recommend.

“I came well dressed, with a JIST Card and prepared to address my felony with my turnaround talk. I did a cold call, just walked in. I did know that they were hiring, though. I didn’t have an appointment. The hiring manager saw me filling out the application, talked to me and hired me right then and there on the spot,” Brown says.

Her F.A.N.S. program took a bit more time to find a home, but she’s now teaching the five-session seminar at the DuComb Center, the St. Joseph County (IN) community corrections program, where she was on a work release program last year. Her first class consists of 10 men and women.

How Brown developed F.A.N.S.

“I developed the program by dissecting what the needs are from what I was hearing from other offenders,” she says. “Low self-esteem is a huge problem in (preventing people from) getting into the job market. F.A.N.S.’ mission is to extend reentry not just for job skills but for life skills in general. It’s a source for empowerment and encouragement for the person who wants change but isn’t certain how to go about it.”

Each of the five two-hour workshop sessions is devoted to a different subject. The tools she uses include:

  • Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed
  • PowerPoint presentations created by Alicia Brown
  • TED talks
  • Social Media
  • Additional resources from local staffing agencies
  • Responsible Mothers Workbook
Our book changed her life

In a recent TV interview on ABC 57 News in South Bend, Brown told the reporter that our book changed her life.

“Why?” we asked.

“This book was able to provide tools for me that I needed and up-to-date information so I could get out and do what I wanted to do. This book changed my perception and told me I could be successful, but I was very nervous that I ever would be,” she said.

“The book gave me initiative and drive and confidence – and a whole new purpose for me to take this message to the next person who needs it.”

She’s convinced it works. “I taught it to 350 women while I was incarcerated in Madison, and I’ve heard from people on Facebook that it changed their lives too.”

Career OneStop video library offers insight into jobs and industries to help you decide a career path

Careeronestop video libraryRecently released from jail or prison and not sure what kind of work to look for?

You’re not alone.

Many people who have been out of the work force for a while – or who have never really been in it – may have a difficult time trying to figure out the job that might be suitable for them.

There’s an excellent resource to help you in your efforts. CareerOneStop, a free career counseling service sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, offers the CareerOneStop video library, a collection of hundreds of videos where you can learn about careers and industries and the skills and abilities they require.

Videos divided into clusters based on type of work

The videos are divided into 16 clusters that include similar types of work — from agricultural and natural resources to architecture and construction, hospitality and tourism to transportation and logistics. Each cluster has an overview video and then videos for particular types of jobs.

Each video is just a minute or two and gives an overview of a type of career, what’s required in terms of ability, how to train for it and what workers do on a day-to-day basis. All of the videos also have transcripts.

A few examples from the CareerOneStop video libary
  • Take for an example a wind turbine technician or wind tech. The video explains that people with this job install, repair and monitor wind turbines. They also do maintenance. Most people in this field earn a certificate at a technical institute or community college.
  • How about the possibility of a flooring installer? This is someone who lays and finishes carpeting and tile, linoleum and wood flooring, although a person would normally specialize in only one of these. Most people learn on the job but there are some formal apprenticeships available. This is an excellent choice for someone who wants to have their own business.
  • Or you might be interested in getting into the hospitality industry. A good start is to work as a hotel or resort front desk clerk. This job requires excellent people skills, since clerks are the first person that guests usually deal with. It’s a good learning experience and could lead to a hotel management position.
  • Another possibility, among many others, is a home health care aide or someone who provides in-home health care services to the elderly, or those who are sick or disabled. They may administer medications or help clients get dressed or bathed. They may also prepare meals or do light housekeeping. This job usually requires a high school diploma and some sort of formal training and certificate.
Information on pay and job opportunities also included

Some of the pages where the videos are displayed also include average pay, a job outlook rating – or how many job opportunities should be available in the future – and a link to a searchable database of training programs across the U.S. And there’s an entirely separate section of videos in Spanish.

So if you’re unsure what direction to take work wise, spend a few hours exploring the website and its clusters of videos, and watch as many as you can. Afterwards you’ll have a better idea of the kind of work you may be qualified for and interested in doing. Then you’ll be able to use the site to find a training program near you, if one is required. With a bit of initiative and perseverance you may soon be training for or finding a job that will help you with your new life.