Tonawanda News

Columns

July 3, 2013

Give ex-criminals a chance

Tonawanda News — Earlier this year I took a group of local organizational leaders on a tour of the factory after which I told them that a quarter of our machine operators have what would be considered colorful criminal backgrounds; some had lengthy stays in prison while others are or were under probation.

This was a shock to the tour group because back in their workplaces — and in many throughout America — hiring of former criminals just isn’t something that’s done. The overzealous use of background checks for any position under the sun, as well as the dreaded “have you ever been convicted…” slot on application forms have forced many human resources managers to look at one-time lawbreakers as having the plague.

Well, let me tell you, they don’t “have the plague.” Most of those who spent time in jail or had their names splashed across the police reports in your local paper are, for the most part, just like the alleged straight shooters in the world. They want to overcome their histories. They want to make good on their lives. They want to raise perfect families. They want to contribute to society. They want to work.

When they are given that chance to work, they succeed. Ex-cons have been some of my best coworkers. The determination they possess to become new men, to stay clean and better themselves (and their families) furnishes an incredible work ethic. They saw how the other side lives — as a matter of fact, they lived it themselves — and they don’t want that life. They know the importance of the straight and narrow and they relish the freedoms and rewards that the squeaky clean types tend to take for granted.

A good life is one is one of the greatest motivators there is.

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