Ex Cons Make Great Employees
Tax breaks and government-paid insurance help, but most employers hire former criminals because they often get dependable, motivated employees
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“This Job is My Lifeline”
After being hired, James Kimura was trusted in recommending
James Kimura spent just about every day for six months job hunting while living at the Laumaka Work Furlough Center after his release from prison.
“I applied to about 30 jobs,” Kimura says. “All the labor jobs I found were from the newspaper and suggestions from the case managers at Laumaka.”
He eventually got hired by Winston Gample at Kahala Caterers.
“He had hired some prior ex-convicts, so that’s how I got my foot in the door,” Kimura says.
“I love the opportunity to learn new things. I started off as a dishwasher and have been a cook now for three months. I’ve learned to be self-sufficient and to live on my own. I hope to stay here and work for them.
“They’ve helped me out a lot. If I never had this job I think I would be down the same road as I was. I have no family help to get me back on my feet, so this job is basically my lifeline.”
Incentives for Hiring Ex-Cons
The Federal Bonding Program provides fidelity bonds to companies that hire ex-convicts and other hard-to-place people. The free insurance compensates the companies for employee dishonesty during the first six months of employment.
Additional bonding can be purchased through an insuring company that provides the bonds for the government.
Another federal program, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, lets businesses reduce their federal income tax liability when they hire ex-convicts. In Hawaii, about 500 WOTC applications are certified each quarter through the state Department of Labor. The annual tax credits range from $1,200 to $9,000.
Programs like WorkNet are judged on their recidivism rate – how many ex-cons return to prison after being released. There are many reasons they end up back in prison, including new crimes, parole violations or failure to land a job.
Whatever measure is used, WorkNet says, its recidivism is about 9 percent. The average recidivism rate for all Hawaii inmates is more than 50 percent.
Know the Law
Hawaii’s Fair Employment Practices Act governs what you can ask a job applicant.
You cannot ask about a person’s criminal background on a job application or in an interview. Once an employment offer is made, then you can check into a person’s conviction record and – if warranted – rescind the offer.
To look up a criminal record through the Criminal Justice Data Center, go to www.state.hi.us/hcjdc. Cost is $10 to $15 per person checked.
Most Common Jobs
WorkNet says most ex-cons are hired in the construction or service industries, and most of the jobs are entry level or semi-skilled.
Construction: Traditionally, the construction industry has employed about 60 percent of WorkNet’s graduates. They have worked as general laborers, painters, masons or carpenters, and electrical or steel workers.
Service Industry: Construction hiring has slowed, so as many as 70 percent of the current WorkNet graduates end up in the service industry. They often have been hired as janitorial or laundry workers, window cleaners, prep cooks and dishwashers, delivery drivers and warehouse workers.
White collar: About 5 percent of WorkNet grads end up in white-collar work, including office and administration work, and in healthcare.
Local agencies that help ex-cons
Laumaka Work Furlough Center
Community Assistance Center
Job training and support.
Oahu Work Links
Job referrals; also, the results of pre-interviews can be forwarded to companies.
Department of Vocational Rehabilitation
Works with deaf, blind and institutionalized inmates.
Honolulu Community Action Program
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