Category Archives: employer incentives ex-offenders

Employers, what will it take to get you to hire ex-offenders?

The federal agency that supervises offenders on probation and parole in Washington, DC  isn’t going to tiptoe around this question anymore.  Instead, at a time when a bad economy has made finding a job with a record even more difficult, officials at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency have started flat-out asking employers whether they’d consider bringing a former offender on board, and if not what might be done to change their mind.

It’s all part of a new media campaign designed to bring awareness to the fact that not everyone with a criminal record is the same.  On any given day, the CSOSA’s Community Supervision Program is actively responsible for more than 16,000 offenders, many of whom are alcohol and drug-free, skilled, employment- ready and have put their past behaviors well behind them, says Leonard Sipes, the agency’s senior public affairs specialist.  Yet, only about 53 percent of those individuals are currently working — a statistic CSOSA aims to improve by confronting the issue head on.

” There’s a certain point where you’re not going to make an omelet unless you  scramble some eggs,”  Snipes said.  “So we decided to take a risk.    What do we have to lose by trying and giving businesses a voice? Sure, some will be harsh and negative, some will stereotype – but if  we don’t engage in this conversation things will stay the same.  Hopefully by doing this we’ll  open the doors for one person to get hired and then maybe for two more the next time and build from there.”

The CSOSA will run video and radio interviews with employers on  its website and YouTube.   While some employers have been encouraging,  many  have told Sipes that they simply don’t want to hire ex-offenders because they’re worried about having to deal with trouble.  “They want ironclad guarantees that the person will show up and do the job without creating problems,” he says.

Often, the companies want CSOSA to stay involved with the individual, so its caseworkers can help handle any situations that might arise.  Typically, the agency will refer only the most employment ready, mature and reliable individuals in order to avoid such problems, but they are willing to work with the employer to help ensure things go smoothly.  It’s in everyone’s interest, Sipes says, since studies show getting offenders back to work reduces recidivism and improves  public safety.  Employers who hire ex-cons can also take advantage of incentives, including  tax credits and federal bonding.

What can ex-offenders do to improve their chances?  Feedback to CSOSA so far indicates most employers are simply looking for someone with a good attitude.  Skills aren’t always as important, as they will often teach the right person, Sipes notes.  “If you  present well and  can say, ‘ I’m going to be here every day and I’m going to be a benefit to your company and all I need is an opportunity,’ —  a lot of people caught up in the criminal justice system have a hard time expressing that, but that’s what employers want to hear.”

It will be interesting to see what bringing this conversation to the surface will do.  Readers, how about you?  If you know companies that hire or don’t hire ex-offenders, what are their reasons?  Do you think more employers can be convinced to give former felons a second chance?

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Incentives to hire ex-offenders: more questions on bonding

Got a bit of a scare on Wednesday when I went to check out www.bonds4jobs.com — that’ s the website for the federal bonding program — and found it no longer existed.

But FEAR NOT!   As you can see, it turned out to a temporary glitch, with the site merely down for maintenance.  The bonding program, which facilitates the hiring of ex-offenders and other at-risk employees by providing  insurance to protect employers in the event of theft or dishonesty,  is alive and well and actually quite busy now.

That’s according to Ron Rubbin, the director of the federal program, who called me back yesterday to explain.  “I was amazed at the number of people who called because they couldn’t find site,”  Rubbin said.  “It shows how popular the program is.”

While I had Rubbin on the phone — a bit of serendipity to be sure — he was kind enough to help me answer a few questions that have recently come up in my classes about the bond program:

How does the bonding program work?

Basically, employers who wish to employ at risk or hard to place employees can obtain fidelity bonds to insure their businesses for up to 6 months in the event that employee commits an act of dishonesty.   The typical bond amount is $5,000 and the bonds are renewable.  The state buys the bonds at a discount (it costs approximately $98 to insure one individual for $5,000).  If you are seeking bonding services or a job you should call  1-877-US2-JOBS  (1-877-872-5627).   They will refer you to your state’s bonding coordinator or the nearest career one stop employment center for assistance.  Since 1966, when the initiative was started, more than 40,000 people have been insured through the federal bonding program.

Will the program help me get a job?

Yes and no.  Most private insurers will not bond ex-offenders.  The fact that an employer can get protection against theft or loss through this program if they take a chance on an you,  may encourage them to take that risk.  IF you have all of the right experience and skills, and IF you are the person they want to hire, the bonding program is a great incentive.   But if you’re not a fit for the job, it’s unlikely to help.

I applied for a job in housekeeping at a large hotel chain recently.  They said they couldn’t hire me because I was an ex-offender and I needed to be bonded?   Can they do that?

In the future if an interviewer uses this excuse you may want to mention the bonding program.  Given that you say this was a big chain, the employer likely knew about federal bonding, but chose not to participate.  Some companies don’t want to hire ex-offenders even with bonding and that’s their prerogative.   Most of the people bonded through the program, Rubbin says, won’t be having access to large amounts of cash and valuable merchandise. That might have been the issue with a hotel.

I work in a high-paying industry.  Unfortunately, a $5,000 bond won’t be enough to insure me, since companies usually base this amount on a portion of your salary.  So the federal bonding program can’t help me, can it?

Actually, you still may be able to get help.  Although the typical employee is  bonded  for $5,000, the amount can go as high as $25,000.   About 15 percent of the ex-offenders in the program are insured for more than $5,000.  As a practical matter it comes down the state agency or bonding coordinator’s discretion.   If they agree to insure you, you could be covered for a higher amount.   It will depend on your case and the competing needs in your state or area.  Obviously, more people can be insured if they limit the bonds to $5,000, but most states make evaluations on a case by case basis.

Still have questions about bonding?   You can find tons more information at the bonds4jobs site.  And if you’ve had an experience being bonded in this program we’d love to hear about it.

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