Tag Archives: Unicor

Federal prisoners hold $100 million in government-run accounts, shielded from some criminal scrutiny and debt collection – The Washington Post

UPDATE (06/10/2021): The referenced program statement for the collection of fines and restitution may be read on the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) website (Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (bop.gov)). Some of the sanctions for NOT meeting financial responsibility are listed on pages 11-13, many of which are severe.

Inmates must pay or be sanctioned for non-participation. If a court ordered the defendant to pay the cost of incarceration, the BOP takes that first.

Personally, while on the Inside, I was fired three times from my position in UNICOR for not paying restitution that the court ordered to be PAID UPON RELEASE FROM IMPRISONMENT. Eventually, I won the battle and the BOP stopped extorting me.

Based upon the above, I do not find the attached article reliable, even though I am sure the reporter only stated what he had been told, much of which was misleading in my opinion.

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I wish reporters who report this type of articles were more knowledgeable about laws and prison policies. Maybe The Washington Post will find better reporters. The BOP has a policy for collecting restitution and other debts owed by prisoners.

The fact is, though, that the BOP often collects the money from prisoners each month and then holds it in the BOP account and draws interest on the money collected.

In this case, then, the Villain is the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/bureau-of-prisons-bank-system/2021/06/08/2aff9766-c3d1-11eb-8c18-fd53a628b992_story.html

How Much to Send Prisoners Varies

Federal Prison Industries, Inc., UNICOR, INMATE EARNING STATEMENT

The amount a person may want to send an incarcerated individual, depends on many factors. He or she has shelter, and though it may be lacking at times, most prisoners do have food and the essentials of survival, whereas some loved ones or friends may be struggling to survive on their income.
 
If the free citizen needs to pay rent, buy food, or otherwise take care of themselves and family, in my opinion, as a former prisoner, I’d rather have gone hungry than for my loved ones to have sent me money that was needed to provide for themselves. My comfort came in second compared to theirs.

My personal opinion is that most prisoners should be able to get by on $50-$100 per month and even less if no one from the outside can help. Unfortunately, many fall into a trap trying to get by and revert to various ways of survival I won’t address. And some of those who have money coming in may be extorted by the stronger prisoners or gangs and still do without.

Prison life is sometime Survival of the Fittest. Not always, though. Read The Truth About Incarceration, Part I to learn more about prison life.

Prisons are commercialized and charge inmates for many things that were once given to those under their care. Because of that, if the incarcerated receives funds and owes for services provided, the institution may freeze the inmate account and take funds sent in by a person’s family or friend.

Most systems have policy or program statements that define what the law allows, which may be challenged through the Administrative Remedy process and the courts. In most cases, courts rule in favor of the prison administrators but not always. Therefore, money sent in to someone for food items, etc., gets taken and the person has to get by without the funds but will normally survive, even if it means going hungry or not having what he or she wants or needs.

UNICOR HELPED ME PROVIDE FOR MYSELF

In the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, I was happy to provide for myself by working and not having to be dependent on others to provide funds for my wants and needs.

Many of my peers were different, especially if on drugs and wanted to get high, the same as I did until 1995. I understood their actions because I know what it was like for me when I lived the life of an addict, so I am not condemning those who still live the life I once did.

When I first entered the system, after having served time in the Georgia Department of Corrections, where I was not paid for working, I felt good earning the low-wages ($0.12 per hour) then paid to federal prisoners who did not work for UNICOR.

UNICOR is the trade name for the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. that has changed considerably since when I began my federal sentence over three decades ago in 1988.

Please note that all prisoners do not get paid for working, or get paid as much to work in places like the Federal Prison Industries, Inc.

I was one of the highest-paid, hourly-rate, inmate employees who worked for UNICOR, and rarely made over $200.00 per month. In the copy of the paystub above, I earned $189.14 for the month of May in 2018.

On average, by working in the Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR), I earned enough to spend $64.00 on the phone, $50.00 on writing/emailing blogs, etc., and $45–50.00 on commissary items, based on cost in the Federal Prison System.

To do the things I wanted to do, I made sacrifices, such as to pay for the creation and upkeep of my website, STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN, and my blogging expenditures that added up when considering I paid five cents per minute to use the emailing system provided by Corrlinks.com. To print my drafts, of which there were many for some of my more lengthier blogs, I paid fifteen cents per page. That is in the federal system, which operates different than Corrlinks does in some state or private prisons.

In deciding what to send, a person may want to see what type of information is posted on the prison system website. The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons posts inmate handbooks and even the commissary lists for institutions.

I checked the page for the Federal Prison at Edgefield, SC to see the commissary list that seems current. As for the Inmate Handbook, old and outdated. View the Commissary List by clicking HERE.

I hope the above information helps to make informed decisions.

BREAKING NEWS

trump and kim

[Update: June 10, 2022: I checked a link to the former BOP director’s testimony before Congress and learned it had been moved, so I corrected the URL, and want to suggest that readers also check out a blog I wrote after my release from the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, where I added copies of letters to the honorable Mark S. Inch, x-BOP Director, and the Honorable Trey Gowdy, former Congress person. Fight for Change.

I also want to note that achieving Platinum Certification in WorkKeys did not help me get a job. Several job recruiters showed a lot of interest in my impressive credentials until asking when I was born or when did I receive my GED or High School Diploma. Several hung up the phone after I answered. My age knocked me out of more job opportunities than did my criminal history.]


[June 18, 2018] I have good and bad Breaking News. First, I commend President Trump for commuting the life sentence of Alice M. Johnson, a 63-year old grandmother trapped in the federal prison system for 21-years. The lovely Kim Kardashian West interceded on her behalf to President Trump.

Ms. Johnson was not a small-time drug dealer, but … 21-years is enough time in prison for anyone to serve who did not commit mass murders or horrendous crimes.

Now, if President Trump wants to save American taxpayers millions of dollars, he’ll instruct the Attorney General to order the BOP to reinterpret 18 U.S.C., Section 3624 to give federal prisoners the 54-days Congress provided for in the statute (see “INCREDIBLE NUMBERS FOR SEVEN DAYS”).

Other good news is that I succeeded at obtaining WorkKeys Platinum Certification to increase my chance of finding gainful employment upon release: More on that in a moment.

The bad news is that a nine-year study on recidivism was released in May 2018 that showed 83% of released prisoners from 30-states were re-arrested at least once during the study period. I’ll write more on that one, too!

MORE OF THE GOOD NEWS: In “Uncivil Wars” (08/17/17) and in “A Job Affair” (10/03/17), I listed what my ACT WorkKeys Skill Report showed for each of the three ACT skill levels. I scored in the Platinum range for two of the three categories.  The Gold Certification I received was because of the Level 5 score in the Locating Information category (I needed one more correct answer to score as a Level 6), so that’s why I wanted to try again.

During the September 29, 2017, Mock Job Fair, the representative from the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department strongly suggested I retake the test because I was so close, and because only six percent of students receive the Platinum certification. I followed her advice.

CHANGES: Since I took the ACT tests in August 2017, WorkKeys changed their testing and scoring system. The Levels for Locating Information ranged from 3-to-6. When retested, I learned that Locating Information was replaced with Graphic Literacy.  Students may now score up to a Level-7 in Graphic Literacy, the same as with Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information (also changed). The change made sense and made the testing more consistent.

This is from my ACT WorkKeys Skill Report:

WorkKeys Graphic Literacy:

You scored at Level 6.  People who score at Level 6 have demonstrated all of the Levels 3, 4, and 5 skills. They also demonstrated, using graphics designed at the highly complex level, the following skills:

* Locate information in a graphic using information found in another graphic

* Compare two or more pieces of information

* Identify a trend/pattern/relationship

* Make an inference or decision

* Identify the graphic that accurately represents the data

Additionally, using graphics designed at the high-moderate level, they have demonstrated the following skills:

* Compare two or more trends/patterns/relationships

* Interpret a trend/pattern/relationship

* Make a reasonable inference or decision based on one graphic after finding information in another graphic

* Justify an inference or decision based on information

* Identify the most effective graphic given a defined purpose

* Justify the most effective graphic given a defined purpose

[End Quote] In Graphic Literacy and Applied Mathematics, my scale scores were 82. I did best at Reading for Information (Level 7, scale score of 87).

The above results show 1) I’m capable of interpreting data presented in recidivism studies that rely on graphs and complex data, and 2), I’m qualified to perform mathematical analysis to solve complex problems.

CONFESSION: I failed to perform to my fullest potential when writing “War & Reentry.”

A reader said I was unclear when writing about recidivism numbers and studies. Upon review, I saw I erred in comparison of recidivism numbers relied on by ex-director, Mark Inch. I wrote that he was wrong by stating federal prisoners recidivated at half the rate of state prisoners.

I was incorrect in one sense: If non-citizens were included into the federal study, the numbers would be much different; however, that is not the case. I used an incorrect formula to present the argument. The actual numbers were 67.8% for state prisoners, compared to 33.7% for federal prisoners rearrested within 3-years of release.

If 68-state prisoners and 34-federal prisoners were rearrested after their release during the same study period, the statement by Mark Inch would be true.

THE FACTS prove the statement untrue because the Feds released and deported thousands of illegal immigrants during the study period, many of whom illegally-returned to the United States and were rearrested (recidivated), but were not included in the “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview.” Non-citizens were included in the comparison 5-year State study listed below.

Read more on the 2016 federal study in “Recidivism in America” (01/25/17), where I posted a link to the April 2014 comparison state study. Another associated article/blog is “An Inside View of Criminal Justice,” originally published by PrisonLawBlog.com (10/07/14). I show the influence of private prison companies on the BOP and failed policies that fuel mass incarceration.

INCREDIBLE NUMBERS FOR SEVEN DAYS: In “War & Reentry” I showed the millions of dollars American taxpayers will save if the BOP awards its prisoners 54-days per year, instead of the 47-days awarded since 11/01/1987, which resulted in prisoners serving longer prison sentences than intended by Congress.

The numbers listed were that 44,000 federal prisoners get released each year and that if released 7-days earlier, it would equate to an annual savings of thirty-million, six-hundred thirty-thousand, and six-hundred dollars.

Those numbers are correct: $30,630,600 saved by awarding federal prisoners the other 7-days lost in the BOP’s interpretation of federal law.

THE JUSTICES who dissented in Barber v. Thomas, 560 U.S. 474, 130 S.Ct. 2499, 177 L.Ed.2d 1, 13-16 (06/10/2010) cautioned that the majority opinion would add, “[t]ens of thousands of years of additional prison time on federal prisoners …. And if the only way to call attention to the human implications of this case is to speak in terms of economics, then it should be noted that the Court’s interpretation comes at a cost to the taxpayers of untold millions of dollars.”

The majority said the BOP’s interpretation was “reasonable” and that they must give it deference. The Justices did “[n]ot determine the extent to which Congress has granted the BOP authority to interpret the statute more broadly, or differently[;]” therefore, the agency may change their interpretation immediately to comply with the statute, clarified by the House of Representative in passing the FIRST STEP act with a vote of 360-59.

IF the BOP and Attorney General wants to save your taxpayer dollars, they will change their interpretation and give federal prisoners those other 7-days. The truth is, that if changed, the bureaucrats will probably give themselves large bonuses to consume funds saved.

COST OF INCARCERATION INCREASE: Between 2011 and 2017, the cost of incarcerating a federal prisoner rose from $79.16 to $99.45 per day or $28,893.40 to $36,299.25 per year. Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 52 (03/18/13), and Vol. 83, No. 83 (04/30/18). That will grow.

BE PROACTIVE FOR CHANGE: Demand a change! Contact your Senator and Congressional Representative and ask him or her to push prison reform and a change from draconian sentencing laws that lead to mass incarceration. Demand that BOP (Backwards on Purpose) officials be held accountable and follow the law to reduce recidivism.

BACK TO THE NUMBERS: I questioned the figures when I thought of 44,000 as the number of released federal prisoners, so I went to the source:  transcript of Ex-director, Mark Inch’s testimony before the “Oversight Hearing of the Bureau of Prisons” on April 17, 2018. Inch stated on page two, under subheading “OUR PROGRAMS – REENTRY BEGINS ON DAY ONE” as follows:

“Reentry programming is a critical component of public safety; inmates are much more likely to return to a life of crime and victimization if they leave prison without job training, treatment for mental illness and/or substance abuse, an education, and a general understanding of what it means to be a productive law abiding citizen. It is important that we in the Bureau help ensure the nearly 44,000 inmates who are released back into the communities each year do not repeat their past mistakes.” Inch-Testimony.pdf (house.gov)

EVIDENCE OF MORE RECIDIVISM:  Last month the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new study (“2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014),” NCJ250975, May 2018), a follow-up to the 5-year study relied upon for comparison by the ex-director (“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010,” NCJ244205, April 2014).

The 83% recidivism rate revealed in the 9-year follow-up study shows the seriousness of recidivism in America and the need for a magic elixir that does not exist. Until financial incentives end for politicians who continue making policies and laws that fuel mass incarceration, positive change will be slow: It is time to stop state and federal funding for private prisons.

In 2015, former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, introduced a bill to bring back federal parole and to stop federal funding for private prisons. Apparently, none of Senator Sanders’ peers were interested in eliminating a source of income from private prison lobbyist, so the bill never made it to the vote stage of legislation.

FLAWED POLITICS: In passing laws and implementing policies and practices, the political trend for decades has been to restrict or prohibit violent felons from receiving time off their sentences for program participation. Criminal laws include increased penalties for career criminals and those who commit violent felonies.

To deny those offenders of program benefits increases the risk on society that those prisoners reoffend. Violent offenders need help, too.

Most violent offenders will be released from prison; therefore, those laws and policies are flawed and need restructured to include anyone who wants to participate and maybe change their lives, if the law-makers want to protect society and to reduce recidivism.

VIOLENT CRIME MISCONCEPTION: All categorically-listed crimes of violence do not contain violence. I addressed the issue in “Violent Crime Misconception” (02/24/16). I believe most people think of violent criminals as those who physically harm or threaten to harm their victims during the commission of crimes like rape, murder, and armed robbery.

Programs that current policy prohibits certain prisoners from receiving benefit from, are programs such as the Residential Drug Abuse Program. And in the event that the Senate approves the FIRST STEP act, any “Evidence-based Recidivism Reduction Program” or activity that reduces recidivism.

For instance, inmates with convictions for “certain” crimes of violence or sex crimes, will be prohibited from earning time off sentences by participating in evidence-based programs; e.g., Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) that reduces recidivism by 24%; taking educational or vocational classes. Restrictions also apply to those who participate in faith-based or social programs; mentoring or teaching any evidence-based program; participating in cognitive behavior treatment, “victim impact classes or other restorative justice programs.”

Those aspects of legislation needs changed and made retroactive to award prisoners for positive behavior exemplified under dire circumstances. Maybe Kim Kardashian will help get votes in the Senate to change the failed criminal justice policies. Go girl!

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes at StraightFromthePen.com.

WAITING

counting the daysI am waiting, waiting for my WorkKeys test scores, waiting for a class to begin on Job Applications & Resumé Writing.  All of that waiting concerns preparation for the day my freedom arrives (read my poem below, “Waiting”).

The past prepares me for today.  Today prepares me for tomorrow; and if given a “tomorrow,” I shall seek opportunities that prepare me for better days.

In preparation of the day my freedom comes, I continue to work on increasing my chance of success upon release, which may be as early as April 25th, 2018.  Well, that is my “almost free” date; the date I may leave here for Dismas Charities (halfway house) in Atlanta, Georgia, my home town.  I’d still technically be in federal custody while at the halfway house but will be allowed to go find a job to pay for my upkeep.  Later on I’d be put on home confinement, where I will stay at home unless at work, always near a phone and monitoring device.

WORKKEYS:  At the beginning and end of the class, we took the TABE Locator test for math.  At the beginning I scored 12.1 out of a possible 12.9, the latter of which I scored upon completion.  Now I am waiting to see if I succeeded at obtaining Platinum certification.  I feel I did.  By the next blog I will know and will proudly boast if I scored the Platinum.  If I did not qualify for it in two out of three categories, I will be shocked.  No doubt I will at least grab the Gold!

PLATINUM:  A flyer about the National Career Readiness Certificate, shows those with Platinum certification (Level 6), are qualified for 99% of jobs; e.g., accountant, technical writer, registered nurse manager, elevator installer and repairer.

GOLD:  those who bring home the Gold (Level 5) qualify for 93% of jobs; e.g., school counselor, pharmacy technician, semi-conductor processor, business executive, electrician.

I like the potential job categories for the Gold (as well as for the Silver or Bronze I do not list), but I prefer the Platinum; it will shine more when I apply for a job with an interested company.

JOB APPLICATIONS & RESUMÉ WRITING

OBJECTIVE:  Secure entry-level position with innovative company and advancement opportunities; demonstrate ability to assist management at maintaining and enhancing customer satisfaction.

I signed up to take the class for one reason:  to participate in a Mock Job Fair upon completion.  As I wrote in “Seeking a Real Job,” June 7, 2017, I completed the World of Work program and worked in personnel at Bankhead Enterprises, Inc.  I know how to complete job applications and how to write a Resumé.

I signed on as a student but when I went to show the instructor my Resumés so he can use them to show the other students how to overcome “missing years” from the workforce, I was asked to help with the class.  I agreed.  Our first class is this week.

EMPLOYMENT PLANNING

ISO 9001: 2008, QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AUDIT:  For the last few weeks, I’ve worked on revising the local Quality Manual (QM) used by my employer.  This week, the factory will be audited for compliance with ISO 9001: 2008 requirements.  We will be under close scrutiny by an external auditor from the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI).

I control the documents and am intricate to the auditing process, as I am also an internal auditor for the Quality Management System (QMS), and am the longest-standing QMS employee at this factory.

Our Operations Manager, who began here in 2010 as a trainee for a Q.A. Manager position, upon completion of his training, relocated and then climbed the ranks.  He is now over this factory and two others.  He recently visited and said, “You’re still here? They need to make a monument out of you, you’ve been here so long.”  🙂

TECHNICAL INFORMATION:  Each section in the local QM coincides with the ISO 9001: 2008, Quality Management System requirement; e.g., ISO 9001: 2008, sub-clause 4.3, Control of Documents, is Section 4.3, Control of Documents in the local Quality Manual.  All ISO certified factories must be compliant with the ISO 9001: 2015 standard by September 15, 2018.

I am adding changes to the QM to ease the transitional process (listing parallel requirements, where the two standards coexist), and by adding any additional requirements to comply with the 2015 standard.  Doing that will make the conversion process easier when I revise other associated documents.

My original plan was to retire before this NSAI audit.  I changed my mind to honor my word.  During the February 2017 NSAI audit, the external auditor wanted to know when we’d be ready to apply for certification under the new standard.

“Before I leave in April of 2018,” I said, since no one else answered.  I have the skills and know the value of knowledge and experience that I’ll gain by helping to convert the QMS over to ISO 9001: 2015; I suspect it will boost my annual salary range by $10,000-$20,000, above the normal pay range for the type of positions I am seeking in the manufacturing sector.

The acquired knowledge also opens the door for freelance opportunities of going into businesses to help prepare them for ISO certification, or simply going in to set up an internal auditing program (several years ago the going rate for setting up an auditing program was 30K).  I can do that!

TECHNICAL WRITER:  Officially, UNICOR does not have a technical writer position; however, I have done and do a lot of it.  While doing an internal audit, I made a finding about the factory not having a manufacturing instruction for a new process.  Because of my superb technical writing skills, and the factory’s lack of qualified personnel in the production department, I became the one to write the needed manufacturing instruction.

I love showcasing my skills by creating visual art with the Microsoft Word 2010 computer program, so I added illustrations to show users how to perform the task.  Years ago, after seeing my work on manufacturing instructions, an external auditor was amazed that I had done it in Microsoft Word.

Now I have more to add to my portfolio.  In many companies these days, employees just take photos and write a brief instruction.  That doesn’t work well for all the other forms of technical writing I do; e.g., writing and editing other administrative documents for my superiors to approve.

AGE BARRIER:  My age was one of my former concerns in finding suitable employment; however, on July 29, 2017, I listened to a portion of a segment on CNN that relieved my worries.  The caption read:  DRUG USE IMPACTS BLUE COLLAR WORKFORCE.

Even though I plan to be a White Collar employee, when I heard that “Four Out of Five Job Applicants Fail Drug Screens,” it convinced me that living clean and sober gives me an edge.  Ironically, the problem that once defeated me in the pursuit of a promising career, has now become a factor to rocket me into a promising future as a productive member of society, as an older and wiser person.

A POEM:  This poem captures the reality of prison living.  This is an existence I eagerly await passing, with no intention of ever returning, other than as a visitor to show others that there is hope of better days.  I wrote Waiting while living with a difficult cellmate, while I practiced humility, breathing in, breathing out; changing my karma.  Instead of getting physical to show my dominance, I stayed composed and effectively resolved the conflict without picking up a new case or causing injury.

It is easy to come to prison and spend the rest of your life for having to resort to violence to deal with a knucklehead.  I make better choices today by responding to conflict rather than reacting, and will continue to do so upon release.

WAITING

Light streams through bars and screen,

Illuminating the gray of a gloomy place.

A place where people weep and pray,

Making way for another day.

 

Another day confined in a bathroom;

Another day held with another person,

In an overcrowded prison, celled together,

Saving tax dollars, space, fighting hate.

 

Hate seeping through pores, poisoning the soul,

Creating a recidivist with its venom;

Venom eating the soul, leaving a shell.

Hate I leave behind today in search of serenity.

 

When will the day come without bars and fences?

Will I walk away upright, proud, free at last?

Will I be rolled out, en route to mortuary?

Will I walk freely, no chains or cuffs, mortified?

“Waiting,” copyright 2011, Wayne T. Dowdy, ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.

*****

CONCLUSION:  When I do enter the job market, I will succeed at whatever field I choose.  I am also a qualified Q.A. Inspector.  Another field I may go into is counseling drug addicts and alcoholics, helping the mentally ill and others to find an acceptable way of life.  My long-term plan is to create my own company.  Only God knows what I will actually do or whether the day will come that I do walk out the doors as a free man.

Today (August 8th), I will attend a Memorial Service for a friend who could not conquer his addiction and died in a prison restroom.  He also had heart problems and I do not know what he actually died from, but do know he only had sixteen months to walk out the door as a free man, after having served over twenty-three years.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, but IF I do see the day I anticipate, I will make a difference on many levels, including the creation of StraightFromthePen.org and StraightFromthePen.net.  Click here (gf.me/u/ba6xjn) to see my GoFundMe page for more on my plans for both websites.

Of course, the old saying is if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.  This time, I hope mine and God’s plans coincide.

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Support the author’s writings by purchasing ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95 USD) from your favorite bookseller; available in eBook and paperback.  Visit StraightFromthePen.com and Https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy for other writings by Wayne T. Dowdy.  If you prefer to buy direct, purchase his novels and essay collection from Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616  Email:  MEBooks1@yahoo.com.  Midnight Express Books helps prison authors to achieve their publishing dreams.

SEEKING A REAL JOB

job application.jpgby Wayne T. Dowdy

Time changes things.  Ex-offenders struggled to obtain gainful employment for years.  The blemish of a felony conviction decreased their chance of employment.  Now, at many American companies, a criminal conviction does not automatically disqualify ex-felon job applicants.  That is good news for society and taxpayers!

“The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, representing 1,300 business groups, agreed last month with the Counsel of State Governments Justice Center to provide assistance to chamber members in the hiring of ex-offenders.

“While some businesses have been interested in the past, ‘it becomes even more critical when the labor market is tight not to rule out qualified applicants,’ said David Rattray, a Los Angeles chamber executive.”  Stigma of Criminal Record Fades, As U.S. Employers Get Desperate by Steve Matthews, Copyright 2017 Bloomberg L.P., published in the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA Reporter), CRL, May 31, 2017.

PERSONALLY:  In 1976, I was released from state prison and applied for numerous jobs.  I even tried getting a job at some of the local state government agencies.  During interviews, things went well until my criminal history became the topic, then I essentially got the infamous line, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”  No one called.

A month later, I read a newspaper article about CETA, a program created to help disadvantaged people find employment.  I applied there and experienced the same ole BS.  I had had enough by then.

CRIMINAL THINKING:  After hearing the same ole line, I looked at the interviewer and said, “I’m trying to get a job.  No one will hire me.  I have a wife at home, a baby, and another baby on the way.  I’ve got to have a job to take care of them, but since no one will hire me, what are you saying, I should get a gun and go to work?”

He reconsidered and sent me for an interview at a Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi dealership.  The company hired me as a mechanic.  Unfortunately, the floor manager did not like me.  If the Kelly’s Blue Book said to pay mechanics a certain rate for performing a specific task, he paid me less than normal.  The other mechanics sympathized and agreed that he was unfair to me.

I quit after dealing with the disparity for several months.  Within two years, I made a terrible mistake and picked up a gun to “get paid.”

CRIME PAYS:  I got paid using a gun.  What I got paid was a long-prison sentence because of the method of employment I chose to get paid.  Crime pays with prison sentences that rob men and women of their lives.

A life of crime led to me robbing my children of a father to guide, protect, and provide for them; robbed my wife of a husband to fulfill his responsibilities in the marriage; robbed my siblings of their brother, my mother and father of their son, and turned me into a liability rather than an asset to the family.

GET A JOB:  No, not with a gun.  Being caught with a gun or bullet, would get me sentenced to fifteen years to life without parole.  I don’t want to retire that way.  The 35-year sentence I am almost finished with, gave me enough time to get rested and willing to get a real job.

PREPARING FOR THE JOB MARKET:  On Sunday, May 28, 2017, Georgia Focus, a radio talk show, featured a Georgia Department of Labor official (I think it was Georgia Labor Commissioner, Mark Butler).

He spoke of programs to help the formerly incarcerated to find employment, and said that he has over 100,000 positions to fill.  According to the radio interview and the BNA article, one of the biggest obstacles of some applicant/employees is a lack of soft skills.

SOFT SKILLS:  show up for work on time, dress accordingly (if applying for a welding job, go dressed as if you are ready to start work, not in a three-piece suit); communication and people skills (working with others, being polite, considerate, etc.), and of course, working hard.

He also spoke on the value of following up on job applications; e.g., sending a message or calling to thank the employer for his or her consideration (as I recall, Mr. Butler used his daughter as an example of follow-up activities that landed her two interviews and then the job she sought).

THE WORLD OF WORK:  In 1985-86, I graduated from The World of Work, a program to teach participants to be entrepreneurs, how to get a job, how to succeed in the business world.

(To view a photo of me while giving a graduation speech from a podium at the Hilton Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, visit my photo gallery at here..)

I secured the first position I applied for at Bankhead Enterprises, Inc. (BEI).  I drove a truck to pick up and deliver parts for their Transportation Division (Bankhead Transportation Equipment).  Within two years, I held multiple positions and increased my salary by fifty-percent.

One position I held was as the assistant manager of the Equipment Maintenance Division.  I brought it out of the red for its first time by billing all expenses.  All of the department heads complained about an increase in overhead, but it made my boss happy.  🙂

The last official position I held was in the Personnel Department.  For a pay increase, I left to become an estimator for BEI’s fastest growing division (Bankhead Asphalt Paving).  The manager wanted me to work for two weeks to show him what I could do before he decided how much to increase my salary.

SHARP DRESSED MAN:  I made an irrational decision to quit because “that wasn’t the deal.”  I wanted the raise to walk on the property in my three-piece suit.  Yes, I was young and dumb, well dressed, but definitely young and dumb.

I left BEI and later worked for the Electrolux Corporation to sell vacuum cleaners and shampooers.  I took top office sales on my first week out.

HISTORY HURTS:  In 1988, an insurance company and real estate company both called and invited me to work for them.  My criminal conviction prohibited me from getting license to sell insurance, homes or property.

The insurance company had hired me.  I let the manager know I may not be able to get a license.  I wanted to find out if I could be licensed before he invested the time into training me.  With regret, he learned Georgia law prohibited me from selling insurance for his company.

The principles I learned in The World of Work worked.  I failed to succeed because I had a problem with drugs and alcohol, a problem I no longer have, and one that screwed up my thinking.  With over twenty-two years of sobriety, and a determination to succeed, I know I can make it in any company I chose to work for upon release.

SELL YOURSELF:  To get a job, one must sell themselves to the potential employer.  Employers do not care if the baby needs milk or if the spouse needs a new pair of shoes.  Employers hire people to do the job and to profit/benefit from their labor, so an applicant must convince the employer they are the best candidate for the position, the one to make them money or best serve their interests.

COMPLETING THE APPLICATION:  When completing an application, if it contains a field for Felony Convictions, write or type, “Will Explain During Interview.”  That may allow you to get your foot in the door to sell yourself as the person for the job.

EXPERIMENT:  If faced with resistance by a potential employer, and if you are confident of your ability to do the job, offer to work a week without promise of pay, unless you satisfactory perform the tasks.  Walk away with dignity and pride whether you secure the position or not.  Be proud of having given it your best.

ADVANCEMENT (GIVE MORE THAN YOU RECEIVE):  If paid $10.00 per hour and only work to give an employer $10.00 worth of work, an employee will likely stay at $10.00 per hour; however, if that employee gives the employer work worthy of $20.00 per hour, he or she will likely be promoted, whether it be by advancing in the organization, or by an increase in his or her salary.

FEDERAL PRISON INDUSTRIES, INC. (UNICOR):  For almost 28-years I’ve worked for UNICOR.  Numerous politicians tried to shut the doors.  UNICOR helps reduce recidivism by preparing inmates for the job market.  I learned several marketable job skills since I began working for UNICOR on December 1, 1989.

The more promising positions have been working as a document control clerk, a tutor in an Apprenticeship Program for Quality Assurance Inspectors, a technical writer (since 1997), and an Internal Auditor for eleven years.

The former Quality Assurance Manager, once told an external auditor for the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), who audited our Quality Management System for compliance with ISO 9001: 2008 Requirements, that I was like a gnat.

“When he’d ask me to do something we are supposed to do, if I put him off, he’d keep coming back to bug me to do it.  He was like a gnat flying around in my face.  I’d shoo him away but he’d keep coming back until I did what I was supposed to do.”

He retired and became a respectable employee for a private company.

I apply myself in whatever task I perform and do it to the best of my ability or not at all.  In UNICOR, I apply myself more so to do my part to help keep it afloat for others to have an opportunity to learn and provide for themselves.

I expect those who earn more in a day than I earn in a month to do the same thing.  That does not always work out when dealing with Union or federal employees who know it almost takes an act of Congress to terminate them.  Most often, the bureaucracy rewards incompetence by promoting them instead of sending them to look for another job.  Maybe President Trump can change that.

WORKKEYS:  I began WorkKeys last month to help prepare for reentry into the job market.  The title should have warned me that Workkeys required a lot of work.  The curriculum entails Reading for Information, Applied Math, and Locating Information.

In the early ’80s, I took a Math remedial class at South Georgia College to bring my math skills up to college level.  Now I am re-learning math because I forgot most of what I learned decades ago.  Use it or loose it!

The Neurons inside my brain sparked when math entered the equation.  Math is not my favorite course of study but that has not deterred me from proceeding with what I began.  I am rising to the occasion because of my desire to succeed.  I am striving for Platinum Certification.  More will be revealed!

REENTRY & EMPLOYMENT:  The changes in the job market give me more hope in securing gainful employment upon release.  My age may also be a hindrance when I apply for jobs.  Even so, I’m sure some employers prefer an older, more mature employee, who shows up for work on time, performs his duties in a prompt, efficient manner, and who proves himself an asset to their company, as I will do.

In “Reentry Programs Will Reduce Recidivism” (July 2016), I wrote on the reentry initiatives implemented by President Obama that will help ex-offenders obtain employment and become a taxpayer instead of a tax liability.  I listed numerous companies willing to hire ex-offenders; e.g., The Coca-Cola Company, Georgia-Pacific, Kellogg Company, Staples, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Best Buy, and many others.  Hopefully, Attorney General Sessions will not undo that as he has other initiates implemented by the Obama Administration.

Perhaps Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, will hire an ex-offender when I am released.  I have a lot to offer about issues affecting recidivism, including ideas for reducing it by helping the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.  After all, with my experience in corrections, I am somewhat an expert.

My corrections experience cost taxpayers well-over a million dollars.  Employing me as a Consultant or auditor will yield favorable results by converting me into an asset, especially, for those with a vested interest in reducing recidivism through employment opportunities.

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes StraightFromthePen.  Follow his blogs and purchase his writings at http://www.straightfromthepen.com or at Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616, Email: MEBooks1@yahoo.com