I have family members who can’t find work because of arrest records and felony convictions.

They haven’t served time in prison, but their lives feel like prison because they are locked into a cycle of low-wage jobs (and no savings) due to non-violent offenses in their past.

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner (aka Carlos Danger) is opening a restaurant in Rockaway, NY to address the needs of hungry and unemployed members of that community. His restaurant will provide food to people who live in a food desert, and he will hire people will criminal backgrounds who can’t find work elsewhere.

Leave it to one desperate man to hire and serve the needs of other desperate people. That’s often the untold story of small businesses and food service in America.

Your local pizzeria is staffed with sex offenders and non-violent drug offenders who are locked out of corporate work but have skills to offer society. Your small-town froyo store employs the adult son of a guy who knows the owner. The son stole merchandise from his first job in high school. He was overcharged and overprosecuted by a crabby district attorney. The froyo owner knows the family and wants to give this grown kid a second chance.

I’m always so impressed with the risks that small businesses take with their employees. When society says no, they often say yes to the guy who committed check fraud or the woman with a few DUI convictions. Your local restaurant gives second chances when your corporate employer brand won’t allow for it.

With the prison industrial complex incarcerating more and more Americans for non-violent offenses, you may be put in a position where you have to make interesting choices in talent. You may be asked to choose between a talented project manager who smoked marijuana or a woman who serially shoplifted in her 20s but sought out therapy and is now doing very well.

I hope you don’t leave those choices to your local wings and beer shack. These citizens deserve employment choices that will let them contribute according to the depth and breadth of their skills.

Should felons have to choose between unemployment and Anthony Weiner? That’s a tough choice.

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  1. You hit the nail on the head! Thanks for this post. I assist people leaving the prison system with job search strategies. It’s a tough road for most. The most motivated job seekers ever!!

  2. I’ve been contacted on LinkedIn several times by people like this who did something stupid in college and have a record for a joint or two. They can’t get any IT support jobs other than shady places even though they grew up and are solid adults now.

    Sadly, checking the box that you have a record puts your job application in the dust bin with no hope to even be considered no matter what your work history. The war on drugs has had a lot of collateral damage.

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