In recent years, society has been becoming more and more accepting of former criminals. In many cities and states, new “Ban the Box” laws have prohibited employers from asking questions about criminal history on job applications. The laws have mostly been established with the belief that, if given a fairer chance at employment, former criminals will be able to clean up their act, get back on the right track, and avoid further criminal activity in the future.
By asking about criminal history on job applications, employers send a message that the mere existence of criminal history in an applicant’s past, regardless of the nature of the crime or of the applicant’s personal situation, disqualifies that applicant from employment consideration. Such a mentality functions as a “kick the broken while they are down” system, and only leads to more animosity and crime.
However, not all states have “Ban the Box” laws in place yet, and in areas that don’t, ex-convicts and recently released inmates are still finding themselves up against obstacles that function to prevent their re-entry into society. One of those areas – at least until January 2014 – was Oklahoma City. That’s why the Center for Employment Opportunities, a nationwide organization with branches scattered throughout the United States, decided to open a branch in the area.
The goal of the organization is to help recently released inmates find employment and reassert themselves as valuable contributors to society. In order to achieve this goal, the Center for Employment Opportunities partners with parole officers to seek out struggling former criminals, then assists those individuals in securing job opportunities and working toward better lives.
In the eyes of the people who work with the Center for Employment Opportunities, former inmates have enough to worry about when they get out of prison as is: they don’t need the added trouble of not being able to find a job. Not only do most inmates leave prison with next to no money in their pockets – the state of Oklahoma, for instance, provides only a $50 stipend and a bus ticket – they also have few if any marketable skills. Sitting in a cramped cell for years at a time is not an experience conducive to learning the most desirable job skills, after all.
Because of this fact, inmates are less competitive for many of the most desirable jobs on the market anyway. Add the fact that most companies run background checks on their applicants and are against employing criminals – even for entry-level positions, such as jobs in the fast food industry – and it’s not that surprising that some former inmates return to a life of crime to survive.
The Center for Employment Opportunities helps former criminals escape these tight spots by going to bat for them and partnering with organizations willing to hire people with a history of criminal activity that does not impede their ability to do the job. The organization never seeks to hide the criminal activity of the men and women it works with: third-party background checks utilized by any employer – from vendors like backgroundchecks.com – could easily uncover criminal convictions. With the organization’s help, though, ex-convicts are able to overcome their former offenses and find work. In Oklahoma, for instance, the Center for Employment Opportunities is currently contracted by the city of Moore to help clean up the wreckage left by the tornados last year.