Their crimes aren’t easy to stomach.
VASAVOR job developer Mouly Aloumouati
Murder. Rape. Armed Robbery. Aggravated Assault. But when they come to Mouly Aloumouati, they’ve done their time and have one thing in common.
They want a job and they want to start over.
Aloumouati does his best to accommodate. A business developer at SkillSource Center, (a One Stop Career Center operator in Virginia), he also manages the VASAVOR (Virginia’s Serious and Violent Offender Reentry) program in conjunction with re-entry organization OAR. Over the past seven years, he estimates he’s dealt with some 400 violent offenders and found jobs for more than 75 percent of them.
“I’ve got a recidivism rate of 5 percent,” he says, which isn’t bad, when you consider that nationally nearly two thirds of offenders return to prison or jail within two years.
Affable and approachable, Aloumouati’s secret is a mixture of practicality, doggedness and a willingness to do what it takes to help get his people placed. When he started, he had no experience with offenders, but over time he’s developed an acute understanding of the challenges they face and the way to overcome these.
I was fortunate to catch up with Aloumouati two weeks ago when I stopped by the local Career One Stop Center in Falls Church, VA. Here’s some of what he had to say about how he works and what he’s learned:
On the biggest challenge the violent offender faces:
Some would call it the “fear” factor. “I would say the hardest thing is getting over the stigma. But I try to show the people I work with that the stigma is not the end of the world. You can get past it, if you’re willing to work hard and be persistent.” The important thing, he adds, is how you come across and whether you are employable. This means do you have your IDs, do you know how to conduct yourself in a workplace, have you taken responsibility for your actions or are you in denial…otherwise I’m wasting my time because you’re not ready.” The first step he takes with people who come to him is to do an employment assessment to see where they are.
On what kind of jobs serious offenders can get:
Aloumouati has placed offenders in the labor and construction industries, administrative and clerical jobs, the trades, transportation and food service, among other areas. Many of these positions are entry-level, but he’s also helped individuals find more advanced positions in the medical and other professional fields.
On how the ex-offender should present himself:
“I tell people I work with you spend 10 seconds explaining your record in an interview, then you spend 10 minutes telling the employer what you can do for him.
On his job hunt secrets:
Aloumouati keeps a file on every employer who’s ever hired one of his clients. Any reentry organization can develop a similar list by going to case files for the past three to four years and looking at where the offenders they worked with got jobs, he says. Everywhere he goes, he brings business cards and makes sure he gets them from any employer he meets. He scans the want-ads and Craig’s List regularly and follows up immediately. “Youve got to get to the job before the non-criminals do to make your case,” he says. In fact, he’s been known to drive offenders to an interview to take advantage of a hot lead right away. Even if the job doesn’t work out — he keeps track of the employer so he can check back periodically and find out about new openings before they’re advertised.
On getting professional jobs:
Aloumouati has worked with former doctors, lawyers, police, judges, military, engineers and plenty of others with impressive credentials. Sometimes these individuals will no longer be able to work in their field because of their crimes or licensing requirements. Nonetheless he has still been able to help many find very good jobs. “I have five clients right now, who are making more than $85,000,” he says.
On his advice to an offender who can no longer work in his/her field:
You need to be very creative and change direction. “I tell the people I work with they have to dig deep in their souls and brains to bring me other industries where they can work.” A medical doctor may never be a doctor again with a felony, but he can work with or for a doctor. People may lose security clearances, but not the knowledge and experience they had previously. I have a number of engineers and people in IT that I’ve been able to place in good jobs in the industry. They may not be doing exactly what they were doing before, but they’re still using their skills.