TEXAS Release Inmates Help
TWC Programs
PROJECT RIO WEB SITE
Project RIO
(Re-Integration of Offenders)
The Association of X-Offenders
Diocese of Austin
[These organizations operate within the area of Austin]
Crime Prevention Institute, Inc.
The National H.I.R.E. Network
Texas H.I.R.E. Network
JoinTogether.Org
Lords Of The Dragon
List Of Homeless Service Providers In Texas.
Rights WatchDog
The Lost Closet
The Winners Circle

Help on Jobs with a Criminal Record~


Whether you’ve just been released from a lengthy incarceration or you had a minor scrape with the law when you were a kid, a criminal record can be an added source of anxiety in an already stressful job search. Depending on the severity of your offense(s), your criminal record may not affect your employment prospects at all, or it may make finding a job nearly impossible. Still, you have reason to be hopeful. While you may face some hurdles, you will eventually be able to find employment, regardless of your record.

Steps:

I. Prepare while you are in prison by taking advantage of opportunities to receive G.E.D., start or complete your college education, or get vocational training. Good preparation is especially important if you have been away from the outside world for an extended time, if you have limited job skills and experience, or if you will not be able to return to your previous area of employment (for example, if you were a bank teller and were convicted of theft, you probably will no longer be able to work in banking).

II. Education or Job Training programs may be available to you and hopefully you will take advantage of the opportunities. Government agencies and non-profit organizations provide a host of opportunities for all job seekers to get more training or education. The experience and skills you develop in these programs can make a big difference in the success of your job search. There are also such programs targeted specifically to people who have recently been released from prison. These programs usually also help you find a job during the program and after completion.Many times volunteering your time for a non-profit organization can develope into a full time job.

III. Eliminate jobs for which your record will automatically disqualify you. Your record may automatically disqualify you for some positions, especially government jobs requiring security clearances, military jobs, positions with fiduciary responsibility (e.g., insurance or banking), and jobs working with children. If you avoid wasting time on jobs you cannot possibly get, you’ll be able to focus on real opportunities and you’ll be less likely to get discouraged. Most importantly, though, do your research. Don’t just assume that your record will disqualify you from a certain job. You may be pleasantly surprised.

IV. Be realistic. Honestly evaluating your qualifications is important for all job seekers. You need to find something that fits you and your skill level, and if you consistently apply for jobs for which you don’t have the right skills, you’ll quickly become discouraged. If you have a criminal record, you’ll need to consider how that affects your opportunities, too.

V. If necessary, start small and work your way up. Understand that when a person sees your record, he or she may be reluctant to hire you for a position with a lot of responsibility. That same person, however, may be more than willing to give you a chance in another (usually lower-paid) position. In addition, it’s important to understand that the biggest obstacle may be the gap in your employment history, not simply your conviction. If you want to return to your previous career, it’s likely that business processes and tools may have changed substantially since you left your last position, so you’ll probably need to take a step down to gain more training. Get your foot in the door, especially with a company or in a field that can lead to better opportunities in the future.

VI. Learn about the employment laws in your state and/or country. In some countries (including the U.S.), employers generally cannot automatically disqualify you based solely on an arrest or even a conviction (if the nature of the crime is relevant to the job, however, they may lawfully base an adverse hiring decision on this). This is why applications that ask if you’ve been arrested or convicted of a crime usually have a disclaimer stating that a “yes” answer may not necessarily prevent you from being hired. Know your rights, and consult an attorney or make an Equal Opportunity Employment (EEO) complaint if an employer unlawfully discriminates against you.

VII. Be honest about your history. It can be tempting to lie when an application asks if you’ve been arrested or convicted of a crime. Avoid the temptation: not only is this dishonest, chances are the lie will be discovered. Most employers now conduct some sort of background check, and if they find that you have been dishonest on the application you will almost certainly not be hired. If you’ve already been hired and the lie is discovered later, you can be fired for it. In addition, lying on some applications (such as for military enlistment) is a criminal offense.

VIII. Know what to answer on applications. Some states and countries now prohibit employers from asking about certain offenses, offenses that are over a certain number of years old, or arrests that did not result in a conviction. Your research on employment laws should help you know what questions you have to answer. In addition, be sure to answer only the specific question that is asked. For example, if the application asks if you’ve been convicted of a crime, you don’t need to put down an arrest that did not result in a conviction. If a conviction has been sealed or expunged from your record, or if you pled guilty to an offense and completed a pre-trial diversion program (i.e. deferred adjudication) that resulted in no conviction, you may not need to report these either. Be aware, however, that when enlisting in the military or certain federal government positions, you must report all offenses, even those that have been expunged or sealed.

XIV. Explain your answer if asked about convictions or arrests. Job applications and interviewers will give you an opportunity to explain the circumstances behind the offense or alleged offense. Be sure to take this opportunity if giving more information about the offense may be helpful.

X. Try to get an offense sealed or expunged from your record. Ask your attorney, public defender, or parole/probation officer if you may be able to get the offense removed from your record so that you can legally and ethically answer “no” to conviction questions.

XI. Employ yourself. If you’re willing to work extra hard and you have marketable skills or abilities you may be able to make your own opportunities. You could start a yard maintenance business or provide contract IT services to companies, for example—you’re limited only by your imagination. Think about what you’re good at and what you like doing, and go for it. You’ll probably need to have another job while you’re getting your business on its feet, but if your record has you stuck in dead-end jobs, you might as well take a chance.

XII. Consider joining the military. Some people think that the military will take just about anyone, while some think that you can’t get in at all with a criminal record. In the U.S., they’re both wrong. The military is selective, but depending on the type and number of offenses and the length of time since an offense, you may be able to get a waiver that will allow you to enlist. If you don’t live in the U.S., your country’s military may have more or less stringent policies. Before you enlist, consider the potential dangers of joining the military, but also consider the benefits. The military can provide job training and instill discipline if you have trouble motivating yourself.

Tips:

* Do not get discouraged. You will find work eventually. And remember, when hunting for a job, batting average isn't important. All you have to do is to find one decent job. If you get that job on the 51st try, the 50 previous rejections don't mean squat. Remember, also, that the person who won’t consider anything beyond your record probably isn't a person you'd want to work for, anyway.

* One tactic that works surprisingly well--try to delay disclosing your offense until as far down the interviewing process as possible. For example, if you have a serious offense on your record, write "ask" or "will discuss in interview" on the job application. This way you won't get automatically screened out. The more people have an opportunity to get to know you, the greater your chances that they will like you and will consider hiring you as a person rather than on some preconceived notion.

* Especially if you’ve been incarcerated, there is nothing more important than a positive attitude. If you focus on your resentment of the system and feel upset or cheated by the system, it will in fact serve to “keep you down.” If, however, you focus on the future and decide that you really want to succeed in the outside world, you will find that you have a lot of opportunity to get free or reduced-cost education, training, and career services to help you on your way.

* Your parole officer (P.O.) may be a great person, or he or she may be a jerk. Either way, the more pleasant and cooperative you are with your P.O., the easier things will be for you. Remember that your P.O. can be a great resource in your job hunt, and even if he or she isn’t as helpful as you’d like, it’s still a whole lot easier to deal with the P.O. a few times a month than to deal with correctional officers 24 - 7.

* Build your resume and get good professional references. Work hard and conscientiously in just about any position, and you can build experience and references that will make your criminal record less important to future employers. If you have to take an undesirable job, try to keep it in perspective. Do well in whatever job you have, and get education and training to help you move on.

* Sign up for some spiritual training or Bible study courses. Officials look kindly on this type of endeavor. When courses are completed successfully you could receive help with parole and re-entry into society. One such course is offered by Crossroad Bible Institute free of charge.

Warnings:

+ Do not resort to illegal activities, no matter how dire your circumstances are. Work hard and take whatever job is available if you have to, but don’t risk getting sent back to prison.

+ If you have recently been released from prison, your job hunt may be particularly difficult, but you cannot afford to get discouraged. One of your conditions of parole will likely be that you find a job. What’s more, studies show that people who find full-time employment in the year after release from prison are far more likely to stay out of prison than those who remain unemployed.

+ One of the saddest things in the world is seeing a guy come back to prison on a TPV (Technical Parole Violation). The fact is that there are a lot of things that other people can do without raising an eyebrow that will get you sent back. It's not fair, but it's reality. So, don't cut corners, ever. Don't even get close to violating your terms of parole or probation. You can get back to living like a normal human being when you get off paper.

+ Unfortunately, some unscrupulous employers try to take advantage of people with a criminal record (particularly those on parole or probation). They know that you are likely to need a job more than most people, and that you may need to fulfill legal requirements. If an employer unfairly threatens to fire you or report you to your parole officer in order to get you to work for less money or to perform sexual favors, for example, you should report the behavior to your case supervisor.

+ Lying to a military recruiter about your criminal history is a felony—don’t do it.

Beneficial Information
for Released Inmates of Texas


Unseemly Perry veto shows how GOP fear of felon voters creates self fulfilling prophecy

May 29, 2007

With the 80th Texas Legislature behind us, now we can look forward to seeing how much of what was passed survives Governor Perry's veto pen. Already Governor 39% has vetoed a bipartisan bill that drew no organized opposition at the Lege: HB 770 notifying ex-offenders when they become eligible to vote and sending them a voter registration card (see Grits' discussion here, and testimony from TCJC).

Perry's veto message on this bill is a bit of mealy mouthed flotsam masking base political fears that more ex-offenders might vote. It reads like one of Terry Keel's parliamentary rulings, avoiding the central questions and dressing up an unreasonable, politicized stance whose only real justification is political gain.

The Governor's main, stated reason for a veto is that registering ex- offenders isn't part of TDCJ's "mission," but the state took away the voting right when offenders went to TDCJ, and it doesn't seem like a stretch to notify them when that restriction is removed. When offenders get "off paper" they already receive a packet of information from TDCJ, and this would just add the notice that they're eligible to vote and a registration card.

Besides, the Department of Public Safety's "mission" is not voter registration, but that doesn't stop Texas from operating its "motor voter" program to let people register to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's license. If there's a difference, I don't see it.

Indeed, Perry's veto message is full of such red herrings and misreprsentations. Perhaps the biggest one: "the state does not currently provide this service to law-abiding citizens, such as high school graduates who are new to voting. I find it unseemly that the state would make a greater effort to register former inmates to vote than we would any other group of citizens in this state."

Well, Mr. Perry, we do notify kids they can vote. I was handed my first voter registration application in a high school government class, and most kids get a driver license so the motor voter program gets them a registration card.

For ex-offenders, though, if they're not "off paper" when they re- apply for a driver's license, they won't be eligible to register then like others would be. The main reason for the bill is that many ex- offenders don't know what are the laws surrounding when they become eligible to vote again - a voter registration drive last year among ex-offenders found many people eligible to vote who believed they weren't allowed to do so. The 18-year old voters the Governor describes don't suffer similar misunderstandings.

Plus, the 18-year old voting age is uniform nationwide, while every state has different laws on when ex-felons can vote. The situations simply aren't analogous. We're not talking about just a few people.

Nearly one in 20 adult Texans today are in prison, on probation or on parole.

In reality, it's Governor Perry's position on this that's "unseemly." The real reason for his opposition: Many GOP political consultants believe ex-offenders will be more likely to vote Democratic. OTOH, that could just be a self-fulfilling prophecy - perhaps it's policy stances like this one that make these voters less likely to support the GOP. Two thirds of Republicans in the Texas House and 75% of GOP senators voted for HB 770, but thanks to Governor Perry's veto, it will be hard for Republicans to avoid appearing as though this is their party's stance.

GOP fear of felon voters


Nonprofit donates clothes to inmates

Found hopes new outfits help
offenders shed prison scrubs,
criminal lifestyle

By Katie Humphrey
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, January 04, 2007

Amid the stacks of jeans and cluttered racks of blouses and sweaters, Linda Ann White sees hope.

The donated clothes will be washed, ironed and packaged for women of all shapes and sizes who have one thing in common: They are inmates about to leave prison.


Larry Kolvoord
AMERICAN-STATESMAN

In a building behind the Leander Assembly of God, Linda Ann White, founder of the Lost Closet minis- try, collects and organizes donations of clothing to give to women who are being released from prison.

"They're in prison, but when they get out, they deserve to feel beautiful about themselves," said White, who founded a nonprofit ministry called the Lost Closet to collect clothes for inmates.

"I'm giving them hope, telling them, 'There are people who'll help you.'" Even one new outfit could give an inmate the confidence she needs to shed not only prison scrubs but also her former criminal lifestyle, she said.

White, 49, of Liberty Hill said she became active in prison ministry through her church, Leander Assembly of God, about eight years ago, when she volunteered with a friend at the Halbert Unit, a prison that houses about 600 female inmates in Burnet.

The unit holds women undergoing treatment for substance abuse while serving time for felony offenses. White, who said she overcame substance abuse when she was younger, felt a need to reach out to the women.

She founded the Lost Closet in October 2004 after being inspired by biblical verses in the Book of Isaiah.

White spoke with the Halbert Unit chaplain and developed an order form for inmates to fill out before they are discharged.

The orders came slowly at first, only five or 10 a month, but quickly picked up.

Now, White estimates that she delivers 40 to 50 outfits to the prison each month.

In the summer, she bundles together capri pants and tops for the exiting inmates.

In the winter, they get pants and a shirt, along with a jacket or sweater.

Donations have been steady at the Lost Closet's home base, a small building behind the Leander Assembly of God, but plus-size clothing and jeans are always needed, White said.

Many inmates' families bring clothes for them when they are released from prison, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. For others, the department purchases clothing in bulk from thrift stores such as the Salvation Army, she said.

"She really is providing a service, not just for the inmates, but for the State of Texas," Lyons said about White's program.

The department recognized White in March 2005 for founding the Lost Closet by awarding her the Governor's 2005 Criminal Justice Religious Service Volunteer Award.

White has never heard from any inmates after they have been released from prison, but she said she did not start the organization to garner recognition. "The rewarding part is when I get up in the morning and I'm able to put on my clothes; those ladies should be able to do the same," White said.

"Everyone should have a chance."

Email; khumphrey@statesman.com;
512-246-0053

How to donate:
The Lost Closet, a nonprofit ministry that gives outfits to women preparing to leave prison, welcomes donations of new and gently used women's clothing, especially jeans and plus-size items.

It also accepts monetary donations.

For more information,
contact founder Linda Ann White
at 512-336-1174 or
the Leander Assembly of God
at 512-259-4131.

Learn more at www.thelostcloset.org
Source: The Lost Closet

The Lost Closet


Houston & Texas News
Dec. 26, 2006

Texas Supreme Court to tackle religious freedom law

By JIM VERTUNO
Associated Press

AUSTIN — When a pastor set up a rehabilitation program for prison parolees across the street from his church, the city of Sinton stepped in to stop it.

Now, nearly eight years after then-Gov. George W. Bush endorsed a law to curtail government limits on religious practices, the city's action is the center of a legal case scholars and activists say will test the law and others like it around the country.

The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether Sinton's zoning ordinance — which prohibited parolees from living within 1,000 feet of churches and therefore shuttered the pastor's program — violated the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Oral arguments are expected in March or April.

The outcome could have a national impact because the Texas law is similar to laws in other states, said Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Legal Institute, a nonprofit organization that focuses on religious issues and First Amendment rights.

Also joining the fight on behalf of the church are the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson.

"It's significant, " said Shackelford, whose organization frequently files lawsuits related to religious freedoms. "What kind of powers does government have to look at a church, say they don't like it, and ban it from the city?"

In 1999, the Legislature passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act with help from Bush, who held a news conference with various religious groups to support it.

"This country was founded on the rock of religious freedom," Bush said at the time. "Texas intends to restore it."

Under the law, state and local governments must show a compelling interest, such as protection of public health or safety, before limiting the practice of religion.

Supporters said it was designed to tackle such cases as children who were not allowed to make up school work missed for religious holidays or efforts to prevent someone from wearing religious garb into a courtroom.

In this case, Rick Barr, pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship, had set up his faith-based rehabilitation program for non-violent parolees in 1999 in two homes near his church in Sinton, a few miles north of Corpus Christi.

City officials then passed an ordinance prohibiting parolees from living within 1,000 feet of a church, a school and other certain areas.

Barr's lawyers say the ordinance specifically targeted his ministry and effectively prevented him from operating his faith-based program anywhere in the city.

The city argues the zoning change did not limit religious practice and worship, just where parolees can be housed. A trial judge and appeals court ruled in the city's favor.

Sinton attorney Carlos Villareal said the courts properly ruled the city had a compelling public safety interest in keeping convicted offenders away from schools, residences and playgrounds.

"I'm dealing with a two-square-mile town that is trying to protect its citizens and maintain appropriate land use," Villareal said. "It has every right to go in and protect its citizens."

Barr's supporters worry the appeals court has carved out a broad exemption from the religious freedom law for city zoning. If zoning ordinances, a major enforcement power for cities, are not covered by the law, it is effectively worthless, Shackelford said.

"Zoning is massive power over churches and ministries," Shackelford said.

Douglas Laycock, professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan and professor emeritus at the University of Texas, agreed that if the lower court ruling is upheld, "(the law) will hardly ever be applied."

Two current and former legislators who sponsored the law in 1999 have joined legal briefs supporting the church.

They argue the Legislature was aware that some "unorthodox" religious practices would need extra protection from zoning ordinances that might stamp them out.

The law was meant "to give religion a chance against absolute government power to control zoning," the groups said.

———

The Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act case is Barr and Philemon Homes, Inc. vs The City of Sinton. case No. 06-0074.

Religious freedom law


Helping offenders back into society

November 29,2006

Klamath County residents returning to the community after serving a jail or prison sentence will be able to enter a new program to help them reenter society.

In the past, it wasn't unheard of to have an offender released and returned to the community late in the night with no resources or living arrangements, making it more likely for him or her to revert to bad behavior, said Klamath County Commissioner Al Switzer.

The county community corrections program will be paid for with a $277,000 federal grant and matching state funds.

Commissioners accepted the grant Tuesday. The state contributed $98,000 in matching funds, providing a total of about $376,000. Once established, the program would be self-sustaining, said Steve Berger, community corrections director.

Switzer said he was glad to see the program, partially to make offenders into good citizens, but also to keep costs down from fewer repeat offenders.

"So much of what is done is a revolving door and it's costly," he said.

Funded by federal dollars distributed by the state Office of Homeland Security, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Awareness Grant will fund drug and alcohol treatment, job placement and other services to help inmates prepare to enter society once their sentences are fulfilled. An estimated 120 inmates are expected to use the program each year.

"When they're released and their feet hit the street, they'll be better prepared for the transition," Berger said.

The grant will allow the Consortium, a local drug treatment program, to maintain a 14-bed minimum security work release program within the community corrections facility on Vandenberg Road.

Offenders would enter the program three to six months before their release date and access services to adapt to life outside the corrections system.

Berger said that the "outpatient" aspect of the program began offering services Nov. 1, the same day the grant was formally awarded to the county. The residential portion of the program is expected to begin accepting offenders in February 2007.

Corrections officials applied for the grant in April and asked for bids from local agencies to conduct the program. The Consortium was the only agency to submit a bid while also being the best suited for the job, Berger said.

Helping offenders back into society


Texas law and ex-felons

In Texas, ex-felons can register to vote if they have finished serving time in prison or are on probation or parole. They are not required to prove eligibility, only affirm it when applying. Not telling the truth is a crime.

Local county registrars certify voter rolls. Registrars have recently begun using Department of Public Safety felon files and running them against voter registration rolls to ensure the rolls are clean.

According to the secretary of state's office, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is not required to provide counties with a list of 'cleared' or pardoned felons.

Texas has the same voting rules for ex-offenders for both state and federal crimes. A misdemeanor conviction does not affect the right to vote in Texas.

Anyone who applies to vote must be at least 18, a U.S. citizen and a Texas resident. Anyone officially declared mentally disabled by a court of law is ineligible.

Sources: Texas secretary of state's office, Unlock Your Vote Disenfranchisement laws and their impact

* About 4.7 million Americans have currently or permanently lost their voting rights as a result of a felony conviction.

* 1.7 million disenfranchised citizens are ex-offenders who have completed their sentences. In 2002, Texas had an estimated 523,000 citizens ineligible to vote because they were serving a felony prison sentence or were on probation or parole.

* A 1998 report by The Sentencing Project found that 1.4 million African American men were disenfranchised, 13 percent of the eligible black male voting population.

* About 677,000 women are ineligible to vote as a result of a felony conviction.

* In 2002, blacks were more than 5 times more likely than whites to be incarcerated in Texas.

Sources: The Sentencing Project, Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Bureau of Justice and Statistics

Right To Vote


Former felons who are "off paper" cannot...

1. vote in some states
2. possess firearms
3. hold a license:
a. to teach
b. to practice law
c. to practice medicine
d. to barber
e. to plumb
4. be a Boy Scout leader
5. be a CPA
6. hold public office in
some cities/counties/states
7. live in public housing
8. receive public assistance
9. live in public housing
10. work for Target

Any other "CANNOT"s???


www.southeasttexaslive.com

05/08/2006
Local employers find parolees fitting needs
By: DEE DIXON , The Enterprise

BEAUMONT - "Now Hiring" signs are a mainstay in area business windows these days, and employers desperate to fill positions are turning to an applicant pool they might have been reluctant to consider before - parolees.

The number of parolees being placed in jobs has increased in Hurricane Rita's aftermath, said Marilyn Smith, deputy director of the Southeast Texas Workforce Development Board.

In February, the number of employed ex-cons in a local job program increased to 78 percent. Of 331 ex-cons enrolled in the program, 257 have jobs.

That is up from October, when about 63 percent of ex-cons enrolled in the state-managed Southeast Texas Workforce Development Project RIO had jobs, Smith said.

Imogene Chargois, operations manager at the Texas Workforce Centers of Southeast Texas, said ex-cons now are moving into more permanent, long-term positions.

"It goes back to demand. Employers are trying to meet their needs," Chargois said. "And they are hiring anyone with the skill sets to accomplish whatever tasks are at hand."

Although employers such as schools and financial institutions are reluctant to hire parolees, Tommy Chamblee, manager of the Metal Depot in Silsbee, is not.

"I am a believer in second chances," said Chamblee, who said he had brushes with the law when he was younger.

Both Chamblee, who has no parolees on staff at this time, and Tommy Patrizi, Golden Triangle Cycle Center general manager, have had employees who were on probation. They said they wouldn't discriminate because someone is on parole.

"That would not be a reason why they would not be hired here," Patrizi said. "We would consider them on their own merits, work history and experience. They are no different than anyone else."

Efforts to interview an ex-con for this story were unsuccessful.

The desperate demand for workers is underscored at the Lamar Institute of Technology.

Calls for prospective employees to LIT have increased about 50 percent, placement coordinator Yolanda Avery estimated. She receives up to 10 calls a day from employers looking to fill clerical, machinist, welding, refinery and accounting positions.

"Typically I would fill every order that came in, but that has slowed down since the hurricane," Avery said.

Michelle Lyons, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman, said having a job is key to a parolee staying outside prison walls.

The number of parolees who return to prison is about 30 percent, according to a state report released in January.

The report shows that 11,388 of the 40,239 ex-cons, or 28 percent, released in 2001 went back to prison. The figure for inmates released in 2000 was 31 percent, or 11,043 of 35,353 parolees.

The study also showed that offenders younger than 24 and between the ages of 35 to 39 were most likely to return to prison.

"It is in everyone's best interest that inmates are given viable job skills while they are in prison," Lyons said. "People have re-offended because they didn't have a means of earning a living."

There are incentives for hiring parolees.

In 1966, the U.S. Department of Labor established a Federal Bonding Program to cover "at-risk" job seekers. An at-risk job seeker is someone with a criminal record, a welfare recipient, someone with bad credit or a person who has filed for bankruptcy, according to www.bonds4jobs.com.

Through the program, employers can get insurance protecting them against employee dishonesty, such as theft, forgery, larceny and embezzlement.

Employers also can receive tax credits by hiring ex-offenders.

The bonds4jobs site says a Texas A&M University study found that through Project RIO, ex-offenders reduced their recidivism rate by 40 percent. The study also showed Project RIO saved $10 million a year in re-incarceration costs.

"Bonding gives an employer an additional level of confidence in the program," TWC spokeswoman Ann Hatchitt said in a telephone interview from Austin. "If we can help them (parolees) get to work, it is a step in the right direction."

Before inmates are released, Project RIO workers help them with their resumes and deal with their anxiety about answering questions about where they have been.

ddixon@...
(409) 833-3311, ext. 418

©The Beaumont Enterprise 2006


Pilot Program Helps Prepare Inmates for Return to Free World
www.prweb.com

Pilot Program Helps Prepare Inmates for Return to Free World Long-term prison inmates coming up for parole are often ill-equipped to return to the free world. A pilot program at a prison in Texas is helping these inmates transition to a life outside of prison walls.

Lovelady, TX (PRWEB) April 21, 2006 -- Maria (not her real name) had not seen her son for 12 years. But the 80-year-old mother was determined to get to East Texas where her son is an inmate at the Eastham Maximum Security Prison. The only problem was how to get there from her home in California. With no other family or friends to help, she did the only thing she could do. She set out by car-alone-to arrive in time to be with her son for a unique Easter celebration.

Called the Resurrection Family Celebration, 39 Eastham inmates-each serving sentences of at least 30 years for serious crimes-and 60 of their friends and family members came together in the prison gym on the Saturday before Easter to share a meal, laugh, cry and reconnect. The celebration was part of a new pilot program that helps offenders who are one year from being eligible for parole prepare for their eventual return to the free world. Dr. Paul Carlin conducts the program, known as Criminal Recovery and Relapse Prevention (CRRP). Dr. Carlin developed the program as a way to give serious offenders the tools and support they need to thrive outside the prison environment. The program is based on Belief Therapy, a model Dr. Carlin developed that takes it's name from the premise that people's beliefs directly impact their actions. Dr. Carlin was recently honored with an award from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a Texas House Resolution for his prison ministry work.

"We know that to make it on the outside, these men need the help and support of family, friends and the community they'll be returning to," said Dr. Carlin

Dr. Carlin is also developing a separate program to help parolees better adjust to their new lives. Called Reentry Crisis Counseling, it is a modality aimed at intervening in situations that may result in the parolee being returned to prison.

###

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April 14, 2006, 9:36PM
Getting back on the payroll

Program run by a Houston church helps ex-cons find jobs, stay out of jail
By MÓNICA GUZMÁN
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

For Don Moore, it's the toughest question on any job application:

----------

Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

"Could you see someone in a retail store, where they deal with credit cards, could you see them putting me behind the counter?" asked Moore, whose forgery convictions kept him in prison for more than 15 years.

Moore went to prison again and again because he thought he could "beat the system." Now that he wants to stay out, the system's been beating him.

"Of course, I understand it," said Moore, 48. "But there has to be something for a person like me who says, 'I don't want to do this anymore.'"

For the past three years, he and about 400 other ex-offenders in the Houston area have found help in a quiet neighborhood southwest of downtown. Inside the quaint, two-story building on Isabella, they gather with life-skills and job-training counselors to learn everything from how to write a good résumé to how to dress for an interview. The training is provided through "Moving Forward," a program run by Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church that helps nonviolent ex-offenders get back on a payroll — one of the surest ways to keep them out of prison.

Moore, who says he would like to drive limousines, was the most enthusiastic participant in a recent Moving Forward job-training class.

Keeping that momentum isn't easy, but he said the course has given him hope.

Facing obstacles

Latreca Shepherd, 30, knows that not even a college degree masks the stain she put on her résumé with several minor theft and escape convictions. Now on parole, she has an electronic monitor strapped on one ankle.

"I can't wear skirts, 'cause they'd be looking at me, going 'She's got to be a bad person to have that on her leg,' " said Shepherd, who was released in December and is now an office assistant at Moving Forward.

About 17,000 prisoners released this year statewide are expected to come to Houston, program officials say.

National statistics suggest that two in five could return to prison within three years.

But for those who want change, finding a job, one of the most important steps to re-entering society, is one of the toughest.

"There's no sense of urgency to address this plight,"said Frederick Davie, president-elect of the public policy firm that designed Ready4Work, the national program of which Moving Forward is a part.

Ready4Work is a three-year, $24 million demonstration project that has served more than 4,300 inmates in 12 states through local faith- based communities.

Sixty-four percent of national Ready4Work participants find work, and more than two-thirds of those keep their jobs at least three consecutive months, officials said. On average, the program costs $4,500 per participant, while reincarceration costs taxpayers $25,000 to $40,000 a year.

$50 and bus ticket

More than 32,000 prisoners were enrolled in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice job training, placement and education program earlier this year.

But most state assistance stops at the prison gate. Prisoners get $50, a bus ticket and the promise of another $50 when they report to their parole officer on the day of their release.

"It's a constant struggle for them. They're ex-offenders. Doors are closed in their face," said David Russell, who served more than nine years in prison for burglary and now heads job placement for Moving Forward.

Russell said that, when he talks with potential employers about hiring ex-offenders, he wears a suit and asks if they would be willing to hire him.

"They look at me and say, 'Yes, of course.' And I tell them, 'Well, I'm an ex-offender.'"

A number of local companies have signed on, including a scaffolding company that hired 18 program participants.

Program to expand

National funding for Ready4Work sites expires in August, but a $660,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will allow the Houston program to expand. The site on Isabella can handle 150 clients at a time, but the expansion will make room for 200 more, plus four new staff members, said co-director Catheryn Longino.

Moore started building ambulances for a local company last Monday. It's a long way from driving limousines, but he's grateful. He remembers being in a prison cell, missing out on his four children's lives. "It's not normal for a child to take her first steps to her dad in a prison visiting room," he said. He added that he will never let himself return to prison, but he's not ready to make yet another promise to his family. "I want to say it in my actions," he said.

monica.guzman@chron.com

This article is: Click Here


Transitioning Ex-Offenders into Jobs and Society

By Hugh B. Price
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, April 10, 2006; 12:00 AM

These days many governors face a conundrum that is taxing their cost-cutting creativity. State revenues are climbing steadily, but the top line growth is eclipsed by soaring Medicaid outlays, surging retirement obligations, declining state pension fund assets and, in some states, court-mandated increases in public school funding. The pressure is so acute that state officials are now thinking the previously unthinkable -- releasing inmates early to trim their prison and jail population.

The war on crime launched two decades ago spawned a wave of tougher sentencing laws. This in turn triggered a steep surge in expenditures on prisons to accommodate the influx of offenders, even including nonviolent drug offenders and recidivists snared for minor crimes by the likes of California's "Three Strikes and You're Out" law. As a result, the nation's prisons are overflowing with nonviolent felons who languish behind bars many years longer than are necessary to see the error of their ways and pay their debt to society. And state expenditures on corrections have climbed by 24 percent alone in the past five years.

Excessive incarceration saddles taxpayers and government with housing, feeding and guarding prisoners well beyond the point when there's any point at all. Once they've done their time, many inmates emerge from incarceration bereft of jobs, housing, money and hope. This marks them from the outset as prime candidates for recidivism. Ironically, the pressure to curb corrections expenditures has spurred state and federal officials to embrace prisoner re-entry programs, such as family assistance, housing aid, mental health services, education services and, of course, job training.

These welcome initiatives beg the question, though, of whether ex- offenders actually will be able to land jobs. To be realistic, they rarely leap to the head of the applicant queue in the eyes of employers. When the labor market is very tight, some venturesome employers take a chance on ex-inmates as a last resort. But they're the laudable exception, seldom the rule.

The travails of ex-offenders trying to find jobs ricochet all over society. They're in a miserable position upon release to support themselves and fulfill any child support obligations. Unable to secure jobs, they cannot burnish their credentials as trustworthy workers. Idle except for the shadowy underground economy, many eventually revert to criminality because there's little where else for them to fit.

A soundly conceived transitional jobs program could help steer motivated ex-offenders down a constructive path and better position them to persuade employers that they're a safe bet. But where on earth, would the money to finance it come from?

The answer may lie right under government's nose, namely in the massive appropriations for the corrections system. The wages and supervisory costs for a minimum wage public service job total considerably less than the per inmate cost of incarceration. Voila! Releasing carefully screened inmates several years early to participate in a well-run transitional employment program could get them back on track and plow savings back to the government in the bargain.

As with many new ideas, there are many knotty issues to be resolved, preferably by launching this on a pilot basis. For instance, how would inmates qualify? For a year or more prior to their expected release, they might be required to demonstrate exemplary behavior, plus perform admirably in rehabilitation and training programs inside prison.

Who would they work for? I envision the corrections department contracting with other government agencies, like the highway, public works and environmental protection departments, and with reputable nonprofit groups that can provide credible training and supervision.

What kind of work would they do? To minimize static from unions understandably protective of their jobs, the ex-offenders could perform tasks that government clearly cannot afford, as evidenced by the fact that the work goes undone for years on end. Clearing, grooming and maintaining unsightly mass transit rights of way, viaducts and waterfronts are visible examples of unattended public work. The higher profile the assignments, the more taxpayers will value the debt to society being paid by the ex-offenders via their work and see the payoff from early release employment programs.

The jobs might last for up to one year. After all, the aim is to ease their transition to the labor market, not shelter them forever from reality. Supervision, to fine tune work habits and skills, and support, with resume preparation and job search, are indispensable program ingredients.

And what if they regress? Tiny infractions like occasional tardiness ought not to trigger severe punishment. But if workers fail to participate conscientiously or commit crimes, they should be remanded to prison to serve out their terms. Early release with guaranteed employment isn't an opportunity to be trifled with.

Policymakers must think out of the box in order for ex-offenders to avert the trap of perpetual unemployment. Converting otherwise wasted years behind bars into transitional jobs based on good behavior will transform the debt they've paid to society into a dividend for society.

X X X

Hugh Price is Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and former president of the National Urban League.

© 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

Article


Nov. 26, 2005, 1:02AM
Felons' view of freedom often rosier than reality

Many coming to Houston find a struggle they're not prepared for, survey indicates

By PEGGY O'HARE
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Larquonelius Roberts was released from prison almost two years ago, but he's still living with his mother and struggling to find what he considers respectable employment.

Although he earns $5.15 an hour on such jobs as digging ditches and unloading trucks, he knows he must aim higher to be self-sufficient. He wants to build his credit. He dreams of going to college.

"I knew it was going to be hard, but not this hard," said Roberts, 23, of Houston, who served a 7 1/2 -year sentence for aggravated assault. "I'm going on being out two years now, but I still don't have a real job. I just need a job. I'm just asking for one shot."

Roberts is facing obstacles that are typical for most ex-convicts, who leave one struggle behind as they walk out of prison, only to find a new one awaiting them.

And in the case of Texas prison inmates returning to the Houston area, a recent study indicates the struggle may be even harder, with many of them emotionally unprepared for the challenges they face.

Inmates' expectations

Researchers for the nonpartisan policy research group the Urban Institute interviewed 676 inmates shortly before their release from prisons and state jails and found most thought it would be "easy" to support themselves, renew family relationships and stay out of trouble. The group comprised 414 men and 262 women who planned to return to Houston.

The reality that awaits ex-convicts is much harsher, experts say.

Many find that prospective employers are reluctant to give people with felony records a chance to prove themselves, and finding rental properties that will allow felons to sign a lease can be even tougher. Also, experts say, family members long separated from them by steel bars may not be willing to reconnect.

But one Urban Institute researcher said the inmates' optimism is simply human nature. "I really do believe they have every hope and every intent of making it this time," said Nancy La Vigne, one of the study's authors. "The disconnect comes after release, when they have no support system."

Researchers found 71 percent of those surveyed expected to support themselves easily, although only 15 percent had jobs waiting for them. Most acknowledged they would need help with education, job training, money, transportation and health care.

The study also found that 79 percent expected it to be easy to renew family relationships. As many as 63 percent expected to live with their families and 54 percent said they would rely on loved ones for financial support.

A large majority also expected to avoid future trouble, including 84 percent who said it would be easy to stay out of prison.

Support system needed

The findings don't match up with former inmates' recidivism rates, La Vigne said.

"Expectations are high, yet they're not really consistent with what we know," she said. "Right before release, they're in a place where they are open to assistance ..."

Inmates nearing release need counseling and other support systems to help them understand that the transition to freedom won't be easy, she said.

In addition to programs offered in prison, help is available to former inmates through such sources as their parole officers and the Texas Workforce Commission, said Andy Kahan, a former parole officer who directs the Mayor's Crime Victims Assistance Center.

Most of those surveyed were not newcomers to the criminal justice system. Nearly two-thirds had been convicted more than once and 35 percent were serving time for a parole or probation violation.

Like Roberts, Earnest M. Thomas,61, has struggled to rebuild his life since his January release after serving 23 years for aggravated robbery. His challenges aren't posed by lack of education. During his imprisonment, Thomas earned a master's degree in humanities, took a computer class and taught himself Spanish. Still, he is searching for steady work. He believes his age and his record ó "the X on my back" ó are hindering his quest for a job. When he applied recently at a sanitation company for the lowest positions available, he said, "they just shook their heads."

Inmates 'not being honest'

Roberts, Thomas and those who work with inmates question whether the responses to the survey reflect most inmates' true expectations.

"Those prisoners that gave those answers were not being honest," said Dr. Paul W. Carlin Sr., of Crockett, who ran an assistance program in Houston in the 1990s called the Association of X Offenders. "The truth is, they will not be accepted by society. The truth is, they will need help getting a job and getting a place to live," said Carlin, who said he has counseled thousands of inmates. "And the truth is, they will need help to re-establish a healthy relationship with their family."

Such optimism about the free world is not uncommon, Carlin said. Some, he said, "think they're going to get the ideal job, live in the ideal apartment, and the world is going to slow down for them to get on."

That attitude is more typical among first-time offenders, observers say. Those who have been to prison more than once are more pessimistic, say ex-offenders such as Roberts and Thomas.

"A lot of doors are slammed in our faces. A lot of employers don't want us to work for them," said Roseanna "Rosey" Ruiz, manager of Houston Mayor Bill White's re-entry program for ex-offenders. "There is a lot of fear."

Success stories

There also are thousands of success stories, Ruiz says, including her own. Before straightening out her life, she says, she was arrested 14 times and sent to prison twice. A veteran of four treatment programs, the recovering addict says she has been drug-free for 11 years and is a longtime volunteer in the prison system.

After earning certification as a licensed chemical dependency counselor, she received her bachelor's degree, graduating with honors from the University of Houston-Downtown. She went on to earn a master's degree from the UH Graduate School of Social Work, graduating with high honors.

Ruiz, who helped launch the re-entry program in the mayor's Citizens' Assistance Office four years ago, says she fields about 200 calls a week from former inmates trying to rebuild their lives in the Houston area. Now she is trying to launch an ex-offenders' support group. "There are tons of us out here: good, hardworking, positive people that are tired of living that negative lifestyle," she said. "So many of us are turning this thing around." But that isn't easy, she adds.

Preparation starts inside

She urges inmates to start preparing themselves while still locked up, taking classes on cognitive intervention and parenting, as well as attending groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

A resilient attitude also helps, because rejection will come in abundance, whether from family, employers or housing owners, experts say.

Many of those released from prison ó especially those with long criminal histories ó are tired of the consequences of their behavior and want productive lives, but can't find anyone willing to give them a chance, Ruiz said.

"What a lot of these people are seeking is stability in their lives," she said. "... A lot more needs to be done to help them."

More social services also are needed, Ruiz and others say. "If they have zero to come out to," said Chuck Hurt, a former board member with the Texas Inmate Families Association, "then their chances of success are very slim."

_peggy.ohare@chron.com_ (mailto:peggy.ohare@chron.com)




JOIN FORCES WITH PEOPLE AGAINST PRISON ABUSE
TO LOBBY LEGISLATIONS to stop the denial of Jobs, Housing, Benefits, and Education.
The CONSTITUTION of THE UNITED STATES of AMERICA
NO MAN is to be try twice for the same crime. When criminal backgrounds denys a Citizen of The United States of American the opportunity to be treated equally due to criminal background is discrimination and is against all the foundations laid by the Fore Fathers of this GREAT COUNTRY.