Suspend all reality for a moment. Imagine you are an ex-offender who is due to leave your life behind bars. You know you need to find employment, but are nervous at the prospect. You wonder, should I be honest about my crimes? How will I explain the gap in my work history? What if I am not offered a fair wage?
Four Criminal Justice students in Bradshaw Anderson’s Community Policing class designed a service and applied learning project that will help educate criminals on how to find employment once their time served is done. Elizabeth Garcia, Jen Henderson, Crystal Lemke and Tony Mootz learned that the chances for the prisoners to offend again are lessened if they are employed. Besides the obvious benefit of earning money, employment is a positive activity that keeps former offenders busy and less likely to return to a life of crime.
The group provides helpful resources, encourages job seekers to research the position once an interview is set, creates a chart to track job seeking activities such as attending support groups and job fairs, and counsels on what a professional wardrobe looks like. A checklist of interview preparation tips, questions to ask in an interview and “the perfect handshake” demonstration video provides job search guidance as well. Avoidable mistakes such as showing up late and appearing desperate are discussed. The group also provides a list of businesses willing to hire people with criminal records.
Honesty is clearly the best policy when checking “yes” to the “are you a convicted felon?” box. The employer will conduct a criminal history background check where all arrests and convictions, juvenile and adult felonies and gross misdemeanors, and enhanced misdemeanor arrests are documented. Criminals may want to obtain a copy of their own criminal record from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Criminal Justice Information System, so they can see what their potential employer will see.
Much of the advice is taken from the Ex-Offenders resource Guide, 2011, from the Hennepin South Work Force Center, Bloomington, MN.
Said instructor Bradshaw Anderson, “The students worked really hard and did a great job with this project. They deserve some recognition for their hard work.”
To learn more about the Criminal Justice program at Minnesota School of Business-Shakopee, contact Gretchen Seifert, Director of Admissions, at 952-516-7002.