WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• What is a felony?
• Do people with felonies deserve a second chance in the workforce?
• The felon in Les Miserable.
This article is dedicated to Don and Lola Compton, who have led Shalom Ministries for over 45 years. The ministry began for hippies living in the mountains behind Santa Fe, and broadened to include inmates in penitentiaries in New Mexico. Part of the mission is to provide training for jobs and mentors when inmates are released, and to connect them with halfway houses. Please pray for Don’s recovery as he is in rehab for another month or so, after a debilitating health breakdown. If you would like to send a card: PO Box 90910, ABQ, NM 87199.
WHAT IS A FELONY?
I didn’t know this. The list includes:
Auto theft, larceny, robbery, rape, murder, manslaughter, vandalism, fraud, burglary, counterfeiting, aggravated assault, offenses against children, domestic violence, manufacturing, possession, distribution, and trafficking of drugs. Something like 8 percent of the working age population in this country has a felony conviction.
I have excerpted the following from a story on National Public Radio (NPR):
Alexis (not his real name) is a 22-year-old from the Bronx. Alexis has been looking for a job for months. He has been applying for every type of job available. He went through two interviews with Target that he thought went great, but Alexis didn’t get the job. He’s pretty sure it was because of a criminal background check the company ran on him. Alexis has a felony record, and for a lot of employers that’s a deal breaker.
DATA ON FELONY WORKERS.
During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of people with felony convictions were given waivers that allowed them to enlist. The reason was pretty simple, the Army needed soldiers.
Devah Pager, a sociologist at Harvard, obtained the military records of over a million service members who joined up between 2002 and 2009. About 5,000 of those had felony records. She wanted to find out how ex-offenders actually do in the workplace? Can they be good employees?
Analysis of the data showed when the military made an exception and allowed people with felony convictions to enlist, they performed better than their peers.
First, Pager looked at how many finished the term they signed up for and how many got the boot. On average, those with felony waivers were no more likely to get kicked out.
Next, she looked at promotions. Those with felony-level waivers were promoted faster and to higher levels than those without waivers. And that was quite a surprise.
Pager’s extra observations: The military looked at everything about the person who was trying to join up, instead of just using criminal records as a litmus test. Non-military employers are probably missing a lot of talent when they exclude people with criminal records.
As Alexis stated: “I’m a natural hard worker. Even if I didn’t go to prison I would still work hard, harder than I’m supposed to. I’m just a hard worker.” Alexis would love to join the military, but for the military that is no longer an option.
COMMENTS BY NPR READERS OF THE ARTICLE:
• I’m a felon, from a marijuana charge, and my company thinks I’m a great employee. Serial violent offenders, however, must be guided into isolated careers.
• I fully support efforts to selectively reintegrate felons into the working population. Examples: no convicted sex offenders at day care centers, nobody convicted of wire fraud at banking institutions, nobody convicted of large internal retail theft at retail outlets.
• Felons should be given an opportunity to redeem themselves and contribute to society in a manner that suits their abilities. To forgive those who have sinned and allow them an opportunity to regain their self-respect and the respect of others. At least that is the message I get from Christ’s teachings.
THE FELON IN LES MISERABLE.
A gripping story haunted me for many years. A bishop took in an ex-convict on his last legs. During the night, the convict got out of bed and sneaked away with some fancy silverware.
The gendarmes captured the man and hauled him before the bishop, wanting confirmation so they could put the man away.
To their surprise, the bishop stated he had given the convict the silverware. And to prove this, he gave the man two silver candlesticks. That single act of redemption changed the man’s life, and Jean Valjean became a productive and compassionate citizen.
The story lingers in my mind, and continually reinforces my understanding of grace, as revealed by the life and teachings of Jesus. To read more of my thoughts about grace, click here. It truly is amazing!
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If you are moved by this story, or know of experiences with felons in the workplace, please add a comment to the Comment box at the bottom of the blog.
The Gray Nomad
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me [with help and ministering care]; I was in prison, and you came to Me [ignoring personal danger].’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’ [Book of Matthew, chapter 25]