at 12:35 AM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Many people have had one job during most of their working lives. I haven't. I've had one vocation and many positions, from classroom teaching to doing environmental education in Spanish in an enormous park. Each time I filled out a job application, I quickly ticked through the questions, not stopping to ponder the significance of "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" I haven't, so it was an easy "no," and I went on.

Now I consider that question differently, for I do work within California's state prisons, and I know many inmates well. Each one, if released, will have to answer "yes" to the conviction question, and for most that response alone will result in the application being tossed into the reject pile.

If our corrections system is truly to be the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as its name insists, then we must prepare incarcerated individuals for life on the outside and also ensure that they have a chance at finding legitimate work upon release.

A man who has an upholstery shop does hire ex-offenders.  When I ask him about this, he smiled and said, "Well I could have been there myself when younger. I just wasn't caught."

This man is street wise and not everyone who comes to him finds work. He sits with the individual and evaluates that person's character through talking, sharing life stories, and a sack lunch.


When more of us work -- both on the inside and on the outside -- acknowledge that incarcerated people are individuals, many of whom have studied seriously and made profound life changes, then there will be a societal shift and reduced recidivism .

With a Perspective, I'm Kary Joseph Shender.