By Phillip Cohen
Individuals with a criminal past are often overlooked or avoided in the hiring process. Many companies are hesitant to hire ex-offenders fearing they pose safety risks.
As the owner of a company that has successfully employed many workers who formerly were incarcerated, we have found a good number that not only survive but thrive when placed in the proper environment.
Many show strong professional growth and over time take on more responsibility. Some have risen into the management ranks where they continue to excel and receive high grades of performance.
They not only make a contribution as a leader of the workforce but also make a positive impact at home with their families and friends.
A reason for this success is the creation of a model centered on a drama free workplace. Standards can be set where conflict is held to a minimum if not prevented.
Free courses on leadership, business, mentoring, and financial planning can be offered to ex-offenders as they are to other members of the company. This includes a wide ranging program with much time for reflection, thought, and discussion on both business and personal issues.
Benefit packages that can include tax free donations to a special fund for those in need, a $1,000 gift for first time home buyers, optional retreats and a weekly visit from a marketplace chaplain are also most helpful in the process.
Nationally many corporations are hiring ex-felons. Home Depot, Target, Walmart and Koch Industries have been recognized along with others in 150 cities and counties, and in 28 states, in utilizing “ban the box” job applications. This law prohibits employers from requiring job applicants to check a box indicating that they have a criminal record.
Those who check the box are often automatically excluded from job consideration without the opportunity to discuss the nature of the crime. By waiting later in the interview to ask about criminal history it provides those with a criminal record a fairer chance to compete for jobs. Missouri is among those states that have passed this legislation.
Providing former inmates a better shot at employment is good for both business and society. Research indicates more than 65 million people in the US have a criminal record, from low level property crimes to violent felonies. More than 600,000 are released from prison each year. Many believe excluding these people from the job pool is impractical and bad for the economy. Those unable to find jobs may be forced to return to a life of crime and to the overburdened prison system.
Companies can believe in them and give them hope. They can tell ex-offenders to draw a hard line where they came from and start acting like the person they need to become. Then ask how the company can help them.
Many ex-offenders are willing to pay the price to return to society and have a second chance at life. Those who make that sacrifice have not only become outstanding employees, but outstanding leaders.
Phillip Cohen is President of Cohen Architectural Woodworking in Saint James, MO. Cohen Architectural Woodworking is an award winning firm that standardizes and builds high-quality custom millwork components and casework for healthcare, education, retail, transportation, hotels, and more, for new construction, renovation, and disaster reconstruction. The firm hires many ex-offenders as part of their business practices. Phillip is deeply committed to creating a healthy company culture. He and his team have created an infrastructure for success where those willing to work hard and overcome any obstacle, regardless of their background, can thrive and grow both personally and professionally. http://cohenwoodworking.com