Across the country, former prisoners are finding jobs in the prisons where they were once housed yet still run into employment obstacles, according to the Marshall Project.
At least 30 states have hiring policies for former inmates. New programs, such as the New Mexico Returning Citizen Program, are being created to help the transition from inmate to state employee. “At the beginning it wasn’t easy,” said Cindy Stubbs, after doing time in a North Carolina prison. “Some people in society feel when someone is able to come out of prison and make a good salary and a good position, they don’t feel like you are deserving of it.”
Stubbs manages 22 male prisoners in a North Carolina prison Braille plant. She learned to translate books into Braille while in prison. She interviewed at the plant prior to release.
Stubbs had to adjust to being back in a place she was desperate to leave. A place she was directed to “Stay behind the yellow line” or responded to staff with a “yes sir or no sir.” One day an administrator had to remind her “You are not an inmate anymore,” according to the article.
“It’s not a coincidence that Louisiana also has the highest incarceration level in the country and the second-highest wrongful conviction rate, according to the National Registry of Exonerations,” concluded Reason. According to Reason, 85 percent of criminal defendants in Louisiana qualified for a public defender in 2016. Due to a lack of resources, 33 of the state’s 42 public defender offices began turning away cases.
“The Disappearing Sixth Amendment” by C.J. Ciaramella in Reason magazine June 2017
California does not employ ex-offenders in positions where sensitive information, such as access to personal or medical information on inmates and staff, is available. Texas limits hiring of ex-offenders to positions of substance abuse counselors and construction workers. Yet, former prisoners convicted of certain sex crime are disqualified.
“He’s going to be interacting with the same inmate population he served time with”
“I really want them to know there is hope out there,” said Larry Vene, a former Washington state inmate, who now trains inmates in wastewater management. “They listen to me because I’ve lived what they’re living.”
David Van Horn found a job working inside a prison through the New Mexico Returning Citizen Program, after spending 20 years in prison.
“I was very apprehensive” said Van Horn, who was hired to work in the officer cadets’ cafeteria.
Van Horn was paid $17 an hour, prompting some prison officials’ outrage with the former inmate being hired.
“He’s going to be interacting with the same inmate population he served time with, while earning more than the officers who protect him,” said Robert Darnell, a union chapter president. “It’s a bridge too far.”
Van Horn is no longer working there, according to the article.
In Wyoming, former inmates have to wait five years after release to be hired. Minnesota has a one-year waiting policy.
Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) began hiring formerly incarcerated prisoners under a new law.
“We knew that as we were going out every day talking to the business community and asking them to hire our parolees, that it would be hypocritical if we wouldn’t hire them ourselves,” said Chris Gautz, a Michigan DOC spokesman.”