We all have barriers or obstacles that we face nearly on a daily basis. The program I work in has proven itself to have more barriers when it comes to helping individuals gain and maintain employment. The cliental I work with are all ex-offenders who are on Parole. There is a lot of judgment about giving a person with a record a job. I wanted to take the time to list some of the major barriers that individuals in my line of work face.
- Having a criminal record has to be one of the worst barriers that an individual can have when it comes to employment. There are so many restrictions about where, with who, and how much work an individual on parole can do. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has troubled times and makes horrible decisions, does that mean those individuals should not have a change? Employers need to remember that not all charges are the same and not all crimes were committed in the same way or for the same reason. Just lumping an individual into a category can do more damage to that individual.
- The second biggest barrier is public opinion. When an employer looks over the application and sees the part checked about a felony or criminal record the chances of that individual receiving an interview are slim to none. The going thought process is “Once a criminal, always a criminal”. The problem with this is if an individual is not given a chance to prove they want a different life, then they will be forced to return to the life of crime. The state I work in has the highest rate of recidivism in the country. More people per year return to prison here than any other state. Why do you think that is? I think it is because many people and employers will not give the individual a chance so what would you do if you had no income, no way to provide for your family or children, and no one willing to give you a chance? I have a feeling you would make some hard choices and maybe do something illegal if it meant you were going to survive. I know most reading this will say “I would never get that bad to commit a crime, all I say is no one wakes up one day excited to commit a crime.
- Self Worth, self esteem and having others that believe in you is another barrier that an ex-offender will face. It is demeaning, frightening and embarrassing for an individual to make a mistake and be placed in jail or prison. The belief system and individual grew up with has a lot to do with how they view themselves and the world around them. If you grow up hearing you are not worthy, then you will prove everyone who said that to you right. The individuals I work with teach me to look over my thinking, see what my discrimination thoughts and work to change them. I think individuals need a second chance because if they learn from the mistake they can grow as a person, but if they try to do right and are held down because of their mistake then they will surely go make another one.
- Substance abuse issues plague this world, and everyone who knows that in 1956 the AMA finally named addiction as a disease, knows that this complicates a persons success. The going statistic is that 80% of crimes are committed under the influence of a substance, getting the substance, or selling the substance. The war on Drugs from the 80’s has worked so well thus far. I think that statistic is low because if you meet my clients, hear their story it is evident that substance related issues and money are the factors that keep them dealing drugs. No one thinks to them selves when they are on the playground, “When I grow up, I want to be a drug addict”
- Criminal thinking is a reality but that does not mean that it has to remain. When a person makes a mistake, they usually get a consequence, Think of a small child that is put in time out. If they learn from their punishment they have a better chance of not repeating the same behavior. When it comes to ex-offenders the same is true, yes there are some who might never learn, but making it harder for them to get housing, employment, safety and security the chances are that they will return to that style of thinking
I hope people remember that we all make mistakes and do or say stupid things, but as long as we are given a chance then we all can succeed. I would love to know the thoughts that enter the minds of the readers when they think of ex-offenders. Are there judgments in there?