Are you a company who doesn’t hire the formerly incarcerated? You might want to rethink that choice.

Hiring the *right* formerly incarcerated individuals can make all the difference in the world for a company’s bottom line, especially for start-up. The formerly incarcerated stay with a company 5X longer (on average) than Master’s degree holders, that’s 10 years versus 2 years for context. Those who were once incarcerated have a loyalty factor that many in the workforce do not. The reasoning is simple, those who are formerly incarcerated have more to prove.

Let’s do a case study. I’d like to introduce you to Renee.

Renee is a transgendered woman who spent 11 years behind bars in a men’s prison. Renee released near Seattle, WA and has been out since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Like many who have been formerly incarcerated, finding a good job was a struggle. She applied at every job she could find and time and time again her felony conviction came up as an issue. It wasn’t long before she was feeling pretty hopeless, I remember the phone calls between her and I and while she wore a smile, underneath was the pain of rejection.

Eventually she went to a temp agency and found work at a warehouse. It wasn’t the most fashionable work, but she was thankful for the job. That money was the difference between making rent or not, hopelessness or hope, success or failure. It didn’t take long before the company hired her fulltime and doubled her wages. Not only was she one of the hardest working employees, she did whatever it took to learn whatever the company needed her to learn. She wanted to be an asset and she wanted someone to see her as an asset. When the company doubled her pay she wasn’t about to let them down. And she hasn’t.

Along with her initial employment woes she also had housing woes. The eviction moratorium crippled her ability to find a place. Again, her felony conviction came up time and again as a barrier. Again, I listened helplessly as she attended nearly 100 vacancies and all rejected her. Here was this woman with cash and nobody to take it. Eventually she found a motel to live at and since the monthly cost was about $1000 more per month than a studio apartment she asked the motel owner if she could work evenings and weekends to offset some of the cost.

Now, Renee is one of the hardest working employees at 2 different companies. She was valuable enough to the motel, owner that when he sold the motel he informed the new owner that Renee was a major asset and since she has become a lynchpin for a successful and seamless ownership transition. Oh, and she’s putting in 80 hours a week. She hasn’t complained even once.

Renee is determined that these companies are going to understand she’s an asset. She has hopes to be mentored by one or both of them and she is making sure they understand she’s willing to do the work. Not many are willing to do what she’s doing.

Companies like Amazon and others who don’t hire most felons are missing serious opportunities. Some formerly incarcerated individuals are incredibly dedicated and with a little support from the employer can be molded into the perfect company asset and help locate others who will do the same. I can tell you that as someone who is about to release I have the same work ethic as Renee and I also have the mind to help support her employers as well as anyone else decides to employ me. Heavy-hitters and go-getters hang out with other heavy-hitters and go-getters. We know a few…

If you want to talk and know where you can find folks like Renee, hit me up, I got you.

With Love
Ruth Utnage