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“I have a criminal record, but I need a job…”

Human beings are by nature wary of criminals who could put them, their loved ones or their property in danger, and this is all the more true when it comes to finding somebody to work for them. After all, no storekeeper wants to hire somebody who might steal his merchandise. Then, too, somebody who hires an ex-con may be considered negligent for having done so, to the extent that he or she may even be sued for harmful acts committed by that employee.

If you have been sent to prison in the past, you may be severely handicapped in your search for a way to make an honest living. A criminal record, it must be remembered, lasts a lifetime, and many convicts return to crime–what is called recidivism–after serving their sentences, not knowing any different.

What you can expect to be asked

The particulars of what a prospective employer can ask about your past is a matter to be dealt with at the state level. In some states, they may ask you about arrests and convictions only if they occurred less than a certain number of years ago, while in others only those who are hiring for certain positions may make such an inquiry. Check with your state Department of Labor to find out what the specifics are where you live.

The application process

One thing that you should realize is that your job application form may ask if you have a criminal record and, if so, what offenses are included thereon. Typically, though, it will also say something like “A criminal record will not necessarily bar you from being hired.”

The form may but not necessarily ask about existing records, depending on which state you are in (therefore, as said, asking the Department of Labor is advisable). This is the current situation after the Fair Chance Ordinance, otherwise known as the Ban the Box Bill, has been passed by 12 states and 60 cities and counties that now implement it. It basically bans employers from requiring an applicant to tick a Yes or a No box on the application form following a question on whether he has ever been convicted of any criminal activities. The bill seeks to level the field for everyone searching for employment. It excludes information on having criminal records that may be cause for prejudice before an applicant can even get a fair chance to, at least, make it to an interview and prove himself worthy of the opportunity to work.

Anyway, in your interview, if you are honest and straightforward about this blemish on your past, you stand a greater chance of being at least considered for the hiring process than if you lie and they find out about it afterwards. Do not volunteer information; answer only what your employer specifically asks in the application or during the interview.

Probation and parole

One of the most basic requirements for a convict to remain on probation or parole is to get and maintain a job. If you are on probation or parole, the officer assigned to you will often be able to help you find employment. You may also be able to obtain aid in resumé-writing, preparing for the interview and other things from the state Department of Labor or from a nonprofit organization such as Chicago’s Safer Foundation.

Registered sex offenders

If you are a registered sex offender, then finding a job will be especially tough. In addition to the normal handicaps mentioned above, a convict of this type is barred from holding jobs that will bring him into regular contact with children, such as that of school janitor. Information about the crimes committed by registered sex offenders is readily available, with state correctional services department disseminating their records through the Internet and other media to the general public.

Record sealing and expungement

You may be able to get at least some of your arrests and convictions sealed from public view or even expunged from your record altogether. Normally, all of one’s juvenile delinquency records are sealed once the offender reaches the age of 18. First-time offenders may also be able to get their records sealed. Again, laws regarding expungement vary from one jurisdiction to another. It requires a lawsuit to get parts of your record expunged, but once that is done, you can legally deny that you were ever even charged with those specific offenses.

Needless to say, if you have a criminal record, don’t lose hope. There are still opportunities to get employed. It just takes a lot of honesty, prayers and mending the wrong ways done in the past with a sincere heart.