Ex-offenders face many obstacles while trying to re-enter the workforce, and if you've ever been convicted of a crime, you've likely experienced those hurdles first-hand. While finding a job may feel like a lost cause at times, it's not impossible to secure employment despite your past. A number of government programs exist to help people just like you, and taking advantage of these opportunities could help you snag a job and get back on your feet.
If you served time in a federal prison and participated in the Federal Prison Industries UNICOR program for at least six months, you're likely eligible for assistance through the UNICOR Bonding Program. The program provides employers with an insurance bond that protects them and gives them extra incentive to hire you despite your past. If you didn't participate in UNICOR, you may qualify for a fidelity bond through the Federal Bonding Program. This bond works the same way as the UNICOR Bonding Program, and serves as a guarantee of your honesty and reliability as an employee.
Work Opportunity Tax Credit
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is another incentive program offered by the federal government, and it provides any employer who hires you within a year of your release or conviction with a federal tax credit. As of 2013, the credit provides employers with $1,200 to $9,600 just for hiring you. When applying for jobs, be honest about your criminal history, and consider mentioning this tax credit as a selling point to potential employers. It's possible that not every employer is familiar with this tax benefit.
California, Michigan and New York paved the way toward changing how states handle unemployed ex-offenders by creating state assistance programs, and as of 2013, other states are beginning to join them. State programs offer a variety of employment services to people with criminal records, including free job training, substance abuse rehabilitation and job placement services. Look for state-specific programs in your areas and contact them to find out how they can help you.
Tips and Considerations
In addition to government programs, take advantage of other available resources. For example, a number of private organizations – such as the National Hire Network, the Fortune Society and New York's Center for Employment Opportunities – specialize in helping ex-offenders build relevant job skills and find work despite their criminal histories. Give your probation or parole officer a call. She may be able to give you a list of employers in your area that commonly hire ex-offenders, and this list can be a great place for you to start in your job search.