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Former Texas inmates struggle to find employment

Every year, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice releases approximately 75,000 inmates from prison back into society. One of the most important steps for an ex-offender to take upon release is to find lawful and stable employment. Not only are former offenders expected to become contributing members of society, they must find the financial means to support themselves. Sadly, many try and fail, ending up homeless and destitute on the streets, only to reoffend and wind up back in prison.

The reason so many ex-offenders find it difficult to secure a job is due to employment discrimination. Many employers screen out ex-convicts in the application process and do not even allow them a chance to compete for jobs. But someone's status as a former offender does not eliminate their right to avoid workplace discrimination.

As mentioned in a previous post, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently made changes to its guidelines, suggesting that employers stop basing their hiring decisions on arrest records. The EEOC reported that blanket exclusion against hiring ex-convicts adds an element of racial bias to the hiring process because it is more common for minorities to serve time in prison than whites.

The Tarrant County Commissioner has commented that it costs taxpayers more to keep a prisoner behind bars than to fund services that will help them succeed in the community. Besides the EEOC's efforts, which are mere guidelines, many nonprofit and church groups have contributed their efforts to make ex-offenders' transitions back into society successful ones.

Employment discrimination against former offenders makes it more difficult for them to be productive citizens, and it makes it more difficult for employers to fill empty positions. While safety issues may arise, employers should make an effort to meet with applicants who are ex-offenders and decide on a case-by-case basis whether they want to create an opportunity for a vulnerable individual.

Source: Star-Telegram, "Ex-offenders in Texas often can't find housing or work," Mitch Mitchell, May 28, 2012

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