Job Search Guide Now Available

We are happy to announce that our job search guide is done and ready for distribution. We developed our job search guide to help support formerly incarcerated job seekers. This comprehensive guide includes a job search checklist, skills & experience assessment, tips on how to draft a conviction statement, sample resume, sample job application, monthly budget worksheet, common interview questions, advice for addressing criminal history in interviews and more.

This guide was developed by Pacific Reentry Career Services co-founders Stephanie Hammerwold and Tim Pershing. Stephanie drew from more than a decade working in human resources to create this guide.

If you are a service provider and would like to order copies of our guide to use with your clients, visit our online store. Guides are $10 each.

All of our job search clients will receive a copy of the guide for free. If you are a formerly incarcerated individual and want to find out more about how to get the guide, get in touch through our Become a Client page.

Fair Chance Hiring Summit

Our employment success stories panelists share their experience with fair chance hiring

Our employment success stories panelists share their experience with fair chance hiring

We held our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit last week on June 7, 2017. We had a mix of employers and service providers in attendance to discuss the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated. The summit is the first of many employer events we plan to hold in the Orange County area.

We developed the summit as part of our employer outreach efforts. Reentry success depends on having a supportive community. This includes having employers who use fair chance hiring practices that give the formerly incarcerated a second chance. The summit included a presentation on fair chance hiring and reentry by Stephanie Hammerwold, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pacific Reentry Career Services. Jeffrey Malek of Malek & Malek presented on hiring best practices and background checks.

Reentry success depends on having a supportive community. This includes having employers who use fair chance hiring practices that give the formerly incarcerated a second chance.

Our employment success stories panel featured Quinton Hamilton of Higher Level Processing, Inc., Dean Bramlett of Crown Ace Hardware and Meghan Medlin of Taller San Jose Hope Builders. All three panelists made a strong case for hiring the reentry population. Bramlett shared stories of employees she hired who had a record and went on to have longevity at her company. Because the formerly incarcerated often have to work hard to land a job, they have a strong understanding of the value of that job and can end up being some of the most loyal employees. Hamilton's experience matched Bramlett's, and he offered examples of times he helped reentry employees find simple solutions to things like transportation to work. Often all it takes is small actions of supporting and believing in reentry employees that helps them acheive employement success.

The event culminated in breakout groups where attendees had a chance to share questions, concerns and feedback about hiring the formerly incarcerated. We will be compiling this information into a report to share with attendees and the reentry service providers in an effort to foster strong connections between employers and job seekers.

We want to give a big thank you the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) for supporting our summit and special thanks to OCREP Director Meghan Medlin of Taller San Jose Hope Builders and OCREP Assistant Director Ashley Baribeault-Vlcan of Working Wardrobes. Thanks also to the Orange County One-Stop Center in Irvine and Matthew Macauley for providing the space for our summit. Thanks to the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for helping promote the event, and thanks to Rosemary Touyanou for being at our summit to share information on Santiago Canyon College's free classes.

Stay tuned to our blog for more information from the summit, and mark your calendar for Tuesday, July 11 at 3 p.m. for the OCREP general meeting where we will review our findings for the summit and talk about how we can better prepare formerly incarcerated job seekers for employment success.

Orange County's 3rd Annual Re-Entry Resource Fair--June 13

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Orange County's 3rd Annual Re-Entry Resource Fair is scheduled for June 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Honda Center in Anaheim. This free event is put on by the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) and other reentry service providers in Orange County. We are expecting nearly 60 vendors that cover a wide variety of services for formerly incarcerated people.

Pacific Reentry Career Services will be on site to provide resume review and career coaching. Be sure to stop by our table to say hi and to learn how we can help you prepare for career success.

See you there!

Pacific Reentry Career Services News

We are continuing to work hard to get our programs off the ground and to spread the word about the benefits of employing those in the reentry community. This means putting on events and participating in activities that foster strong connections between the formerly incarcerated and members of the community who can support successful reentry following release from jail or prison. Success depends on a community of service providers, employers, friends and family and more, and we have been keeping ourselves busy in doing our part to support employment for the reentry community in Orange County.

Fair Chance Hiring Summit

Our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit is coming up on June 7 in Irvine. This event will bring together employers, HR professionals and hiring managers to learn more about hiring the formerly incarcerated and how to implement fair chance hiring practices in the workplace. We hope to do more events like this in the future and are planning opportunities that bring together job seekers and employers. This event is free, but space is limited, so be sure to register soon.

Orange County's 3rd Annual Reentry Resource Fair

We are excited to be involved in this year's Reentry Resource Fair, which will be held on June 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Honda Center (2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim). This fair is put on by the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) with the support of many local agencies and individuals. The fair will bring together agencies, employers and other service providers that are ready to help formerly incarcerated people and their families. Pacific Reentry Career Services will be there to offer resume critiques and job search coaching. Be sure to come by our table and say hi.

Involvement with OCREP

Speaking of OCREP, we continue to be thankful for our involvement with this amazing group that is working to bring together a variety of people and organizations that assist the formerly incarcerated in Orange County. Stephanie Hammerwold, the Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director, was recently named treasurer of the OCREP advisory committee. We look forward to continuing our involvement with OCREP as we work to build a strong reentry community in Orange County.

Speaking to College Students

Stephanie Hammerwold recently spoke to a Chicano and Latino Studies class at Cal State Long Beach with Ashley Baribeault-Vlcan from Working Wardrobes. Ashley is also the assistant director of OCREP. Stephanie and Ashley spoke to Professor Maythee Rojas's class about the reentry community in Orange County as well as the work OCREP, Working Wardrobes and Pacific Reentry Career Services are doing.

Job Search Guide Fundraiser

We are still working to raise money to print our Job Search Guide. Your donation to this campaign will help get our guide into the hands of formerly incarcerated job seekers. Donate soon so that your name can be listed on our acknowledgement page in the guide.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Don't miss out on the latest Pacific Reentry Career Services news. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter for all the latest updates.

Sponsor Our Job Search Guide

Pacific Reentry Career Services is committed to helping formerly incarcerated women find meaningful employment. We are also dedicated to supporting the reentry community by providing resources and advocating for fair chance hiring.

We have created a Job Search Guide as a resource for formerly incarcerated job seekers. The guide will be provided free of charge to the women in our mentorship program and to other formerly incarcerated job seekers that participate in our workshops or reach out to us for assistance.

By donating to this campaign, you will help offset the printing expense of our 2017 Job Search Guide. Each booklet costs approximately $3.60 to print.

The Job Search Guide is 28-page tool that helps our clients understand the job search process, make career plans, create resumes, learn about completing applications, prepare for interviews and to create a plan for post-release employment success.

Your name will also be printed on a recognition page inside so they know that they are being supported by people in their community and beyond.

Your donation will go a long way in assisting formerly incarcerated individuals in building successful lives.

Visit our GoFundMe page to sponsor the Job Search Guide!

Upcoming Events

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Things are busy at Pacific Reentry Career Services, and we have been hard at work launching programs and helping support the reentry community. We have begun working with clients, are planning for our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit and making important connections that we hope will lead to successful opportunities for the job seekers we serve. We wanted to take a moment to share information on some upcoming events.

Fair Chance Hiring Summit
Wednesday, June 7, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. • Irvine One-Stop Career Center

This summit is a chance for employers to learn more about the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated. We will have a presentation on background checks and hiring best practices by Attorney Jeffrey Malek of Malek & Malek, a panel with employers who have had success with fair chance hiring and breakout groups for attendees to share their questions and experiences. This event is ideal for HR professionals, hiring managers and business owners. The summit is free, but space is limited, so registration is required. Visit our summit page for more information and to register.

Orange County's 3rd Annual Re-Entry Resource Fair
Tuesday, June 13, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. • Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim

This event is put on by the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP). The resource fair will include community resources, education opportunities and more. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about the programs and services that support the formerly incarcerated in our community. All formerly incarcerated people and their families are welcome to attend this free event. Please do not bring children. For more information or to participate as a vendor, contact OCREP at 657-859-9444 or info@ocreentry.com. We will be there, and we hope to see you there too.

Stay tuned to our blog for more updates, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get all the latest news on Pacific Reentry Career Services.

Resources for Children of Incarcerated Parents

According to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parents. This accounts for 1 out of every 28 children, which is up from 1 in 125 children in the mid-1980s. The report states that having a parent incarcerated hurts children educationally and financially. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 52% of state inmates and 63% of federal inmates have minor children.

Incarceration splits up families, so it is important that we talk about the effect it has on children and not just on the individual serving time. Children of incarcerated parents may experience anxiety, depression, traumatic stress, survivor guilt and other behavior issues. They may have trouble with sleep and difficulty concentrating.

Last December, Pacific Reentry Career Services attended "Children of Incarcerated Parents: Trauma, Toxic Stress and Protections, the 2016 summit put on by Friends Outside of Los Angeles County. The event helped shine a light on the necessity of recognizing the effects of incarceration on children whose parents are locked up. While our work here at Pacific Reentry Career Services focuses on helping clients find employment following release, we also recognize that supporting families is an important part of our work for anyone in the reentry field. Many of those released are parents, and having a stable job with a steady income is an important part of supporting a family. For those supporting children, we have listed some useful resources below.

Families & Criminal Justice
The mission of Families & Criminal Justice is the prevention of intergenerational crime and incarceration. Families & Criminal Justice is based in Los Angeles and has programs for incarcerated parents as well as for the children of incarcerated parents. Their website includes a useful list of publications for those wanting to read more on the effects of incarceration on families.

Friends Outside of Los Angles County
Friends Outside provides no-cost services in English and Spanish. They have a number of programs that include family communication support, family events, support groups, transportation assistance and more. They can also help coordinate supervised visits between qualifying incarcerated parents and their children who have an open case with the Department of Children and Family Services, and they prepare children and their caregivers for visits.

POPS The Club
POPS The Club started at Venice High School in 2013 and has since expanded to other schools in California and Minnesota. This organization establishes clubs for high school students experiencing the Pain of Our Prison System (POPS) through having an incarcerated parent. The clubs provide emotional and community support for participants. They also publish the writing and artwork of participants. Plans are in the works to start clubs at more schools.

Root & Rebound "Family & Children Toolkit"
Root & Rebound recently released their "Family & Children Toolkit: A Primer for Families Supporting their Loved One's Reentry." This guide goes through things friends and families can do to help their loved one before and after release. There are also tips for rebuilding relationships following release, information on family reunification and details about how therapy can help.

Sesame Streets Toolkit for Young Children
Sesame Street has created an excellent resource for young children of incarcerated parents. The kit includes a DVD and booklet for children, and it includes information for caregivers on how to talk to young children about incarceration. The materials are in both English and Spanish.

If your organization supports the children of incarcerated parents, and you would like to be listed here, please contact us.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

If you are not subscribed to our email newsletter, here are some of the things you missed in the first edition:

  • An update on the recent "Reimagining Reentry" fundraiser put on by our friends at OCREP
  • A link to board member Jenni Buchanan's recent article about Linda Offray of Shepherd's Door
  • News about our upcoming Fair Chance Hiring Summit on June 7 at 9 a.m. at the Irvine One-Stop Career Center

Be sure to subscribe, so you don't miss out on updates from Pacific Reentry Career Services as well as information about our June 7 Fair Chance Hiring Summit in Irvine.

Fair Chance Hiring Summits

UPDATE: Our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit is scheduled for June 7, 2017 at the One-Stop Center in Irvine, CA. For more information and to register for this free event, please see our summit page.

There are many myths about hiring those with a criminal record, and this creates significant barriers for job seekers. At Pacific Reentry Career Services, one of our goals is to help break down these myths and to support employers in hiring the formerly incarcerated. Later this year we hope to start the conversation with employers by launching our Fair Chance Hiring Summits.

What is a Fair Chance Hiring Summit?

We have attended a number of reentry events and meetings since making the decision to found Pacific Reentry Career Services. One thing we noticed is that it is a challenge to get employers to the table when discussing the hiring of formerly incarcerated individuals. Employers are an important part of the community and a key part of helping people rebuild their lives following release from jail or prison, so it is important that we include them in the conversation.

The Fair Chance Hiring Summits are designed to provide a forum for employers to learn the advantages, challenges and rewards of hiring the formerly incarcerated. There will be plenty of time for questions and brainstorming, and attendees will also take away information on programs like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Federal Bonding and community resources. Attendees will leave with specific actions they can take to implement fair chance hiring practices in their workplaces.

Employers will also have the chance to talk to service providers who work with the reentry community, employers who have had success with fair chance hiring and members of the reentry community.

Who Should Attend?

The summits are ideal for business owners, HR professionals and those that oversee hiring for their company. We also welcome employers who have had success hiring the formerly incarcerated, so they can share their experiences with other employers. This is also a good event for formerly incarcerated people who have an employment success story and advice they want to share with employers.

How Can Employers Get Involved?

The first Fair Chance Hiring Summit will be later this year in Orange County. Stay tuned to our blog for information on date, time and location. If you are interested in participating in or hosting an upcoming summit, please use our contact form to get in touch with us.

Can Service Providers Participate?

Yes, service providers are welcome to attend. This includes organizations that work with the reentry population on securing employment and those who work in parole and probation. One of our goals is to foster connections between those working with formerly incarcerated job seekers with employers.

Are Job Seekers Welcome to Attend?

This is not a hiring event, so it would not be ideal for job seekers to attend. We will be planning hiring events in the future that will bring fair chance employers and job seekers together, so we encourage you to stay tuned to our blog for more information about upcoming events.

Remember to check our blog regularly and sign up for our newsletter for updates on Fair Chance Hiring Summits and other events.

The Pathway to Safety

An Interview with Linda Offray, Executive Director of Shepherd’s Door

By Jenni Buchanan

 Anyone who has ever been in the business of helping others knows that we don’t do it alone. We live in an interconnected web of society, each of our individual strands touches thousands of others in subtle and obvious ways. Shepherd’s Door, the Domestic Violence Resource Center in Pasadena, California, is a strand on the web that we recently found is closely aligned to what we here at Pacific Reentry Career Services are trying to do. Incarceration and domestic violence often live in the same neighborhood (so to speak); and in the interest of discovering where our two organizations intersect, and how we might support each other's work, we spent some time talking to Linda Offray, Founder and Executive Director of Shepherd’s Door. She spoke to us not only about Shepherd’s Door and the services they offer, but also about her very personal experience with domestic violence, the difficult process of getting a nonprofit through its first years, and why she never gave up. 

How long has Shepherd’s Door been around, and what initially inspired you to launch it?

Shepherd’s Door has been around since 2000. My daughter was a victim of teen dating violence; it was her experience, and then not being able to find resources to help at the time, being angry and upset that my daughter was being misused--all that prompted me to say “I have to do something to help and educate women!”

For 10 years I worked with the City of Pasadena in a pregnancy and parenting program, and it was there that I found out that domestic violence was so prevalent in our community and the home of many of the women I was the case manager for.  Doing social work like that often required me to make home visits, and when you go in the home of a person you begin to see things. I realized how serious domestic violence was in our community. Even what we think of as very successful households. Domestic violence knows no class boundaries, religion, economic status, ethnicity or even gender, It’s prevalent in all communities.

What was the most challenging aspect of getting Shepherd’s Door started?

The paperwork. Getting funding. Finding volunteers. All these things!

It was a lot of work, and I did it all on my own at the beginning. I could not find anyone who was willing to work with me starting from the ground for free. It’s sad to put it that way, but we had no money starting out. People have their own expenses and responsibilities and they want--and deserve--to be paid, but we had no money. So finding volunteers was one of my biggest challenges. It takes a lot of work and dedication, and the person doing it needs to have a passion, especially if they are not going to get paid at first. I couldn’t find anyone with my same level of passion. I found a lot people who cared about the issue, had concerns and a desire to help, but no one would commit to helping me get Shepherd’s Door off the ground.

Shepherd’s Door is not just for female victims of domestic violence, correct? What can you tell me about the demographic of people who come to your organization?

We predominantly work with females. In my 20 years I’ve only had 2 men come to me and admit that they were being abused. 99% of our clients are women. 

I would say 50% are Latina, 30% African American, 15% Caucasian and 5% Asian. The age range is between 21 and 60 years of age. We had a recent intake who was 62, she came to us after 47 years of abuse. Income level is predominantly low-income, but some women are very successful.

We offer the women who come to us a range of services, regardless of their age or demographic, including domestic violence counseling and support groups. We just want to help with whatever they need in the moment. We are proud of every victim that comes to us seeking help; it is the first step to recovery.  Even though there are many survivors of domestic violence, there’s that effect of abuse that will be with them forever. But they learn how to live with it and move on. That's what Shepherd’s Door gives them: support forever.

We are proud of every victim that comes to us seeking help; it is the first step to recovery.
— Linda Offray

Let’s talk about the intersection between Pacific Reentry Career Services and Shepherd’s Door. For victims of domestic violence, how large a shadow does prison or the criminal justice system throw?

Out of the 20 years I’ve been working with women, I've known 2 ladies who’ve been willing to share with me that they have done prison time for killing their abuser, although I couldn’t get them to talk too much about it at the time. But I know several women who have gone to jail because of domestic violence. In a situation where a person is being abused, and the victim finally fights back, the abuser will sometimes be the one to call the police. In these cases, if the victim left any cuts or bruises or marks as they have fought back, then the victims will go to jail for defending themselves. It may only be for a few days or weeks, but nevertheless, that's their encounter with the system.

But there’s a whole other challenge with the legal system once a victim leaves their abuser, many abusers will now start using the system against the victim. The abusers turn around and serve the victims with custody papers after the women leave. They sue for joint or full custody. The abuser (who is often the male head-of-household and breadwinner) is able to afford legal representation, while the victim is unable able to afford to hire an attorney to fight back.

So there are many levels of conflict with the legal or criminal justice system. One of our biggest needs is raising the funds to help victims with legal representation, legal advice, answering of court papers served, filling out legal documents, etc. No one on the Shepherd’s Door team is currently a legal professional, so we are in need of a family law attorney who would be willing to come on board with Shepherd’s Door to volunteer 3-5 hours a month. Anything can be a help to the victim.  We can give women recommendations and referrals, but many of the victims cannot  afford to hire someone even to help them fill out paperwork. Helping victims afford legal representation, and helping them find shelter, are two of our biggest challenges.

The workshops are together with both boys and girls. We feel they should get the same information together. It is important to teach men and women together if we want to break the cycle.
— Linda Offray

Prevention Education is part of the mission of Shepherd’s Door; is this a challenge? Are adolescents and high schoolers your target audience? Do you find them generally receptive?

Oh yes! We work with Pasadena Unified School District. We do workshops on healthy relationships vs. unhealthy relationships, to middle and high school students. The workshops are together with both boys and girls. We feel they should get the same information together. It is important to teach men and women together if we want to break the cycle. Shepherd’s Door has been going into the schools for six years, and we love it!  In 2015-2016 we were able to impart knowledge about relationships to over 800 students. As for reception, the students are awesome! Participation level is great. The students get involved, they ask a lot of questions, and we get a lot of good responses on the evaluations they fill out at the end. One 8th grader last year wrote in an evaluation, “I’ve learned in this class that I’m in a violent relationship. As of today I’m going to leave my boyfriend.” And another young man said, “Thank you for coming and teaching this. My dad used to beat my mother, and I don’t want to be like my dad.”

At the end of the class I always ask how many of them know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, or are victims of domestic violence themselves, and a majority of the students raise their hands.

The education program was very hard when I first started, many times I’ve done presentations and had young ladies sitting before me with tears rolling down their faces. I have had to keep my composure, I always know who in the group is being affected by what I am teaching. I know by the expressions on their faces, by the way they react. I’ve gotten terribly sad looks, and I’ve gotten some looks that simply “I don’t care what you say.” So I make sure to bring it home that none of them have the right to put their hands on each other in violence.

What is the biggest challenge Shepherd’s Door finds itself facing today?

Getting funding. We need funding to help victims get legal help. We need funding to help provide them with shelter and clothing, because most of these victims leave their abusive situation and come to us with nothing.

We need funding merely to sustain where we are. Over the years many domestic violence programs have had to close down due to lack of funding. We lost 9 programs/shelters when the economy took a turn 2008, and almost none of them were able to come back.

We can’t afford to lose these programs. The truth is that for whatever reason, we’ve seen a sharp increase of domestic violence in the past 5 or 6 months. This is nationwide! We don't know why, or what the cause is, but those are the facts. We have a huge problem when abuse is on the rise, and victims cannot get the services they need due to lack of funds.

How can people who read this help Shepherd’s Door?

First of all, refer people in need to us so we can help.

Next, promote Shepherd’s Door to everyone you know, and support the cause! Donate through our website.

People with expertise can volunteer to teach support groups. You can take a domestic violence counseling class and learn how to counsel. (We provide these training classes.) We are starting a mentoring program in hopes of the support victims of domestic violence need. We will be seeking mentors.

And finally, organize a fundraiser. I’m always looking for good fundraisers!

Jenni Buchanan is a reader, freelance writer & online community manager. She is a member of the board of directors for Pacific Reentry Career Services and for One Spark Academy. When not working, Jenni is a philosopher, hiker, nature-lover, and story addict. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenniBuchanan.

What is Fair Chance Hiring?

Simply having a criminal record should not be enough to keep someone from being hired. Fair chance hiring refers to policies that help those with a criminal record find jobs they are qualified for. This can include removing the question about criminal convictions from job applications (also called “Ban the Box”), moving questions about criminal record to later in the hiring process and only asking about criminal record when it is relevant to the job.

Here at Pacific Reentry Career we are committed to educating employers on the benefits of hiring the reentry population. With that in mind, we have addressed some of the most common questions we have heard about fair chance hiring, and we have included links to useful fair chance hiring resources throughout this article.

How does fair chance hiring benefit employers?
One in three Americans has a criminal record. If employers automatically reject these job seekers, they are missing out on a large number of qualified applicants. Many people with criminal records are qualified and ready to work.

How does fair chance hiring benefit formerly incarcerated job seekers?
Getting a good job with a steady income is a huge step in rebuilding a life following incarceration. It can help reduce recidivism, secure housing and help to reunite families. Often checking yes to the job application question about criminal record can automatically land someone in the reject pile. By moving the question about criminal background to later in the process (or not asking it at all if it is not relevant to the job), formerly incarcerated job seekers can be evaluated based on work history, education and other job qualifications, which gives them a fair shot at landing a good job. Their criminal record no longer becomes an automatic rejection.

Does fair chance hiring mean I should never ask about criminal background?
You can still ask about criminal background if you practice fair chance hiring, but you should evaluate when in the process you look at criminal background. The simplest thing is to remove the question about criminal background from your job application and to ask about it once a conditional offer has been made if it is relevant to the job. This gives job seekers a chance to be evaluated on qualifications without having a criminal record unfairly bias a hiring manager against them. For some jobs, you may want to do away with the question all together.

What is the EEOC guidance on the use of criminal background checks in hiring?
In 2012, the EEOC issued guidance on the use of criminal background checks in hiring. The EEOC’s guidance comes from the fact that certain racial and ethnic groups experience higher rates of incarceration and may therefore face barriers to employment. This may lead to discriminatory hiring practices. The EEOC’s guidance encourages employers to only look into an applicant’s criminal background if it is relevant to the job. This is not law, but it is a good place for employers to start when figuring out how to change their hiring process so it does not create unfair biases against people with records. Click on the link at the beginning of this answer or visit the EEOC’s information page for more information on the guidance.

What if I want to use a background company to review criminal records of potential hires?
There are federal and state laws that govern the use of background check companies. Root & Rebound’s “California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit” offers detailed information on the requirements for California employers. If you are thinking about employing a background check company, it is best to consult with an employment attorney to make sure your process fits within the legal requirements.

Are there ways I can protect my business if I do end up making a bad hire?
Many people with criminal records go on to live productive lives following release from jail or prison. The U.S. Department of Labor established the Federal Bonding program in 1966 to provide fidelity bonds to cover at-risk, hard-to-place job seekers. This includes formerly incarcerated individuals. This program is free for employers and employees and covers the first six months of employment. For more information, visitthe Federal Bonding Program website or contact your local EDD office in California. Keep in mind that only about 1% of these bonds are ever claimed, so those covered by bonds have had a high success rate with employers.

Are there any tax benefits for hiring formerly incarcerated people?
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal program that provides a tax incentive to employers who hire people from difficult-to-employ groups, which includes the formerly incarcerated. You can learn more about WOTC on the Department of Labor’s website. California offers additional incentives to employers in designated geographical areas. For more information on the California incentive, visit the Franchise Tax Board’s site.

What can I do to show that my business supports fair chance hiring?
Visit the Dave's Killer Bread website to take the Second Chance Pledge to show that you are committed to removing barriers to employment for the formerly incarcerated. Train hiring managers to make fair decisions regarding candidates with criminal records, support community programs that help the formerly incarcerated find employment and spread the word about the benefits of hiring the reentry population.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is always a good idea to check with an employment attorney before making changes to your hiring process and to ensure that your hiring practices are legal and fit within the requirements of the law for your location.

Get Involved with Pacific Reentry Career Services

A new year often means creating resolutions, setting goals and making plans for positive changes in our lives. For Pacific Reentry Career Services, 2017 means the launch of several exciting programs that we have been working hard on in the past year. We are looking forward to helping those leaving jail or prison in their quest to create happy, healthy and productive lives following release. Of course, success for the reentry community requires support from communities, which is why we encourage you to support our programs in one of the ways listed below.

Go Shopping

For those of you that shop on Amazon, there is an easy way to support Pacific Reentry Career Services. Next time you head to Amazon to shop, use AmazonSmile and designate Pacific Reentry Career Services as the charity you want to support. Then make sure to use the AmazonSmile link every time you shop in the future. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases to Pacific Reentry Career Services. It is simple, and there is no extra cost to you.

Volunteer

We are getting ready to launch our mentorship program and are looking for business professionals in the Los Angeles and Orange County area who want to mentor formerly incarcerated women during their job search and early months of employment. We are also looking for volunteers who want to help out at job search workshops, employer summits and other events. Visit our Get Involved page and fill out the interest form at the bottom if you would like to volunteer with Pacific Reentry Career Services.

Host an Employer Summit or Job Seeker Workshop

If you have a business that would like to get involved in spreading the word about the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated, we would love to partner with you in putting on employer summits. Employer summits bring together hiring managers and business professionals to discuss the benefits and challenges of hiring the formerly incarcerated. It is our goal to open up the conversation about hiring this population, to break down myths and to encourage employers to give a fair chance to job seekers with criminal records. Not only is hiring the formerly incarcerated good for communities, but there are also tax incentives like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). We are also looking for businesses and service providers who want to provide space for us to hold job seeker workshops for formerly incarcerated individuals. Use the contact form on our Get Involved page to submit your interest.

Donate

We rely on the generous support of donors to help fund our programs. Donating to Pacific Reentry Career Services is easy. Click here to go straight to our donation page or click on the Donate button throughout our website. Every dollar helps support programs that get formerly incarcerated people back to work. Remember that Pacific Reentry Career Services has tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. Contributions made to Pacific Reentry Career Services are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Thank you for your support! Happy New Year!

How to Overcome Interviewer Bias

By Stephanie Hammerwold

As much as we try to make the interview process fair by sticking to work-related questions and avoiding discussion of protected classes, our own biases sometimes sneak into our hiring decisions. Maybe you tend to lean toward single parents because it resonates with your own experience being raised by a single mom, or perhaps you had a bad experience hiring someone with a criminal conviction, so now you automatically throw such candidates in the reject pile. Unfortunately, making such assumptions may mean that you miss out on great candidates, and it could also mean that your hiring process is unfair and possibly discriminatory. It is, therefore, important to understand our own biases and to actively work to adjust the hiring process to overcome such biases.

What is Interviewer Bias?

One of the most common forms of bias comes in the form of stereotyping. Take, for example, a job like firefighter, which is physically demanding. If you assume a candidate is not strong enough to be a firefighter because she is a woman, you are relying on stereotypes rather than assessing if the candidate meets the physical requirements for the job. Stereotyping during the interview process can cause big problems, especially when stereotypes about protected classes result in negative hiring decisions. Such practices are discriminatory and could cause legal trouble for an employer.

We may also be tricked by our first impressions into thinking a candidate is exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. This is called the halo/horns effect. This might show up in a bias toward attractive candidates. The candidate’s charm and good looks may get in the way of an interviewer seeing potential problems. Conversely, a candidate who checked yes to the application question about criminal conviction may automatically be viewed as untrustworthy even if the rest of their application and interview are glowing. Such biases get in the way of making good hiring decisions.

We are often drawn to those similar to us, and this can be another bias pitfall. Maybe your estimation of a candidate improves once you find out they are the same religion as you or they share similar political views. Just as with stereotypes, such criteria may be discriminatory and get in the way of really understanding if someone is qualified for the job.

Recognizing Your Own Biases

Overcoming bias starts with recognizing your own prejudices and biases. Once you acknowledge such things, you can be aware of how they may influence your hiring decisions. When I first started interviewing candidates early in my HR career, I noticed that I could easily be swayed by a hard luck story. While some of these candidates were truly ready to move beyond the problems of their pasts and could end up being star employees, sometimes my bias got in the way of recognizing red flags, and I ended up with a few bad hires. Since my early days in HR, I learned to recognize when my desire to root for the underdog was clouding my judgment.

None of us is completely free of bias and prejudice. The important thing is to understand how these things may influence the employment decisions we make. Doing the work before interviewing candidates will ultimately lead to a process that is fairer and free of potentially discriminatory practices.

Structured Criteria & Selection Process

After understanding your own biases, take some time to create a structured hiring process. Start with a job description that clearly lists the qualifications. This is the foundation for establishing criteria against which you can evaluate all candidates. When you determine a reason for rejecting someone, you should be able to point to specific qualifications on the job description that they do not meet.

Have a set of interview questions that are the same for all candidates. This is a good way to ensure interviews stay on track and do not veer into areas that might allude to protected classes. It also helps to limit interview conversations to areas that are relevant to making a good hiring decision and encourages uniformity in the type of information gathered from each candidate.

Make Selection a Group Effort

It is also useful to have several people involved in the hiring process. Pay attention to what others in the hiring process are using to make their decisions, and address any bias you see in how they evaluate candidates. It can also be useful to run selection criteria by others to ensure that criteria are free of bias and are focused on qualifications, skills and experience relevant to the job.

Working with others in the hiring process can be especially beneficial for those new to interviewing who may not yet be aware of their own biases. It is a good opportunity to openly discuss how certain biases may influence decisions and for veteran interviewers to also check in with themselves in an effort to keep the interview process bias-free.

This post originally appeared on HR Hammer.

Happy Holidays from Pacific Reentry Career Services!

It has been a busy year for us as we have worked hard to lay the groundwork to launch Pacific Reentry Career Services. We are excited about the things we have planned for the upcoming year. Stay tuned to our blog for updates on these programs and more:

  • Employer Summits--We are planning on several employer summits throughout the state to bring employers together to discuss the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated, address their concerns and share success stories.
  • Mentorship Program--We will start mentoring formerly incarcerated women in their quest to find meaningful employment. This includes supporting them throughout the early months of employment.
  • Job Seeker Workshops--We will work with other service providers to put on workshops for formerly incarcerated job seekers.
  • Job Seeker Guide--We have been hard at work drafting a comprehensive job seeker guide to help those trying to navigate the job search process following release from jail or prison.

Thank you to all our friends, family and colleagues who have supported us, given us advice, donated to help us launch and been our biggest cheerleaders. Have a wonderful holiday season!

Stephanie Hammerwold & Tim Pershing
Founders & Directors of Pacific Reentry Career Services

Taking a Gender-Responsive & Trauma-Informed Approach to Reentry

By Stephanie Hammerwold

Last month we attended the Reentry Solutions Conference in Ontario, California. I attended a session called “Why Gender Matters: Addressing Gender-Responsive and Trauma-Informed Approaches to Reentry for Justice-Involved Women.” The session reinforced a lot of what has gone in to how we have designed our approach to mentoring formerly incarcerated women in their search for meaningful employment and rebuilding their lives post-release. While much of what we do is useful for people of all genders, we specifically wanted to focus on women for our mentorships and individualized services because of the specific needs they face following release from jail or prison.

What is a Gender-Responsive & Trauma-Informed Approach?

In order to help women transition back into their communities following release from jail or prison, we need to address the realities specifically facing justice-involved women. Dr. Barbara Bloom is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Sonoma State University and Co-Director of the Center for Gender and Justice. At the Reentry Solutions Conference, Bloom explained that a gender-responsive approach is based on the lived experiences of women and girls. It includes trauma-informed, relational and strength-based approaches rather than a gender-neutral approach, which is based on the lived experiences of men and boys and is then applied to all genders.

Because justice-involved women have a high likelihood of having experienced trauma, services and programs need to be designed with that in mind. Bloom explained that we need to adjust organizations so that trauma survivors can access and benefit from services. This means things like avoiding triggering trauma reactions and focusing on building healthy relationships. As the panelists explained, formerly incarcerated women have high rates of domestic violence following release, which means modeling healthy relationships is extremely important in order to help break the cycle.

Rebuilding Trust

Perhaps the biggest barrier to overcome for women transitioning back to their communities is learning how to trust others again. Patty Ayala, MSW is a Case Manager at the Women’s Reentry Achievement Program (WRAP) through the Solano County Sheriff’s Department. She shared stories of how hard it is to help women rebuild trust and explained that it takes numerous people in a woman’s support system to help her rebuild trust. This includes men and women from different backgrounds and both justice-involved and non-justice involved,

Rebuilding trust happens at every level. It takes place in how we commit to appointments with clients and follow through on the things we agree to do. For this reason, it is essential that a gender-responsive and trauma-informed approach include a strong commitment to follow through and the building of safe spaces.

Designing Reentry Programs with Women in Mind

For justice-involved women, a job helps build stability. This can lead to securing housing, improved self esteem and, more importantly, reuniting with children. While there are many struggles shared by those in the reentry community, it is important that we also acknowledge the differences for various groups.

In her presentation, Bloom explained that compared with men, women have more severe histories of sexual and physical abuse. Women also have a higher prevalence of mental and physical health problems and are most likely to have been convicted of a nonviolent crime. In addition, Bloom pointed out that women often respond differently to treatment and correctional supervision. When it comes to designing programs to help the reentry community, one size does not fit all.

This concept was further reinforced by Edward Latessa, PhD during his keynote address at the Reentry Solutions Conference. Latessa is a professor and the Director of the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. Latessa encouraged service providers to not use the same program for every client. In fact, he said research shows that intensive treatments for lower risk offenders can actually increase recidivism. When we take this into account with many women who have been locked up for nonviolent offenses, it becomes clear that reentry programs need to be designed around the specific needs of women.

Some Final Thoughts

It is also important to remember that gender extends beyond just men and women. Trans people are also locked up and face additional struggles within a system that is not always very accommodating to those outside the binary gender system. It is necessary to also develop programs that address the unique needs of this part of the reentry population. In addition, we need to account for race and how that adds different experiences. Overall, this is a reminder that we need to shape our programs to each client’s needs according to his or her experience if we are going to help them achieve reentry success.

Vanessa Perez of the Time for Change Foundation and Dr. Edwina Perez-Santiago of Reach Fellowship International also participated in the gender panel at the Reentry Solutions Conference, and I encourage you to check out their organizations as well as those of Bloom and Ayala, which are linked above.

Reentry Employment Meeting in Irvine, Sept. 13

This month's Orange County Reentry Partnership general meeting will focus on the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated. This is an excellent opportunity for employers, service providers and job seekers to learn more about this important topic.

The meeting will include a panel discussion that covers best practices in using criminal backgrounds during the hiring process, special considerations when hiring the formerly incarcerated, success stories and more.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 13 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Working Wardrobes, which is located at 1851 Kettering St. in Irvine.  See you there!

Be a Part of Our Kickoff Campaign

We started Pacific Reentry Career Services with the goal of helping formerly incarcerated women find meaningful employment. Finding a good job and earning a steady paycheck can do a lot to help someone get their life back on track, secure housing and reunite their family. All of these are things that help reduce recidivism.

We need your help to make Pacific Reentry Career Services successful. Please consider making a donation to our kickoff campaign. Your generous contribution will help us to set up workshops, connect with clients, provide training materials to job seekers and cover the costs of starting a nonprofit organization.

You can also help by getting the word out about Pacific Reentry Career Services and the benefits of hiring the reentry population. Be sure to visit our Get Involved page for more information on how you can be a part of helping formerly incarcerated women get back to work.

Thank you for your support!

 

Common Myths about Hiring the Formerly Incarcerated

By Stephanie Hammerwold

In HR, we often talk about looking for red flags when screening applications and resumes. Red flags can be anything from unexplained gaps in employment, being terminated from previous jobs for questionable reasons or criminal convictions. While automatically ruling candidates out based on so-called red flags can speed up the process of going through a huge stack of applications, it often means that perfectly good candidates get tossed in the reject pile.

For those with criminal convictions in their past, this can be especially challenging. Often a job and a steady paycheck can be a gateway to securing good housing and rebuilding a life following release from jail or prison. Despite having already served time, many continue being punished for criminal convictions following release from jail or prison in the way that they are barred from certain housing, employment and other services. For this reason, it is important that we break down the myths around hiring the formerly incarcerated and give serious consideration to hiring those in the reentry population—many of whom would be excellent hires.

Myth #1: Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal

Some employers do not want to hire someone with a criminal record because they fear that there is a risk that the person will steal, act out violently or commit some other major policy violation because of their criminal past.

A recent study out of Harvard and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst looked at what happened when the military allowed those with felony records to enlist. Not only did the study find that those with a felony record were no more likely to face termination for negative reasons, but it also found that those with a record were often promoted faster than those without a record. The researchers pointed out that those accepted into the military were screened on a number of factors, and those who were more likely to get into trouble were often weeded out; however, the study does point to the fact that a criminal background is not an automatic red flag.

This study is a good reminder that a criminal background does not fully define a candidate. Instead, employers should look at the whole person—job experience, education, skills and other factors that contribute to making someone a good employee. In my HR career, I hired hundreds of people. Some of them had criminal records, and many of them turned out to be excellent employees.

Myth #2: Those with a Criminal Past are Lazy, Unreliable and Lack Discipline

This idea is in line with the above myth. Once again we can look to the military study to disprove this. The military has a high level of discipline and is no place for lazy people. In fact, many people want to do what it takes to keep a job after they have been released from jail or prison.

PastForward, an organization that helps connect formerly incarcerated job seekers with employers in Maryland, found that, “Ex-offenders are often more motivated to work and more grateful for the chance to prove themselves. Some companies find that ex-offenders tend to be committed workers whose success rate is comparable to that of the company’s overall workforce.” A steady paycheck can be the key to securing good housing and getting a life back on track. What better motivation is there for working hard?

Myth #3: They Can Get Experience Elsewhere Before Applying Here

One of my motivations for founding Pacific Reentry Career Services was to break down the myths that get in the way of the formerly incarcerated finding jobs. Early in my HR career, I had a boss tell me to automatically rule out candidates who checked yes to the question about criminal convictions. Her reasoning was, “They can get their experience elsewhere and then come back and apply when they get their life back on track.” It was hard to understand that logic when we were employing entry-level warehouse workers who were paid minimum wage. Where was this mythical elsewhere that people were going to get experience?

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, nearly one-third of the adult population in the U.S. has a criminal record. Not considering these candidates eliminates a big part of the labor pool. Those with criminal records deserve a second chance. It is not enough to assume that another employer will be the one to take the chance. Once again, it is important to look beyond the criminal record and to see the whole candidate. Failure to do so means that employers are missing out on a big segment of the population that could be really good employees.

Bonus Tip: Tax Credits for Hiring the Formerly Incarcerated

Employers who hire the formerly incarcerated may qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and may also be eligible to participate in the Federal Bonding Program. Some states also offer tax credits as well. Taking advantage of these benefits is good for business and good for job seekers.

For more on the military study mentioned in this post, listen to Planet Money’s recent episode on the topic.

How to Answer Common Interview Questions

By Stephanie Hammerwold

So, you have sent in your resume, filled out an application and you managed to land an interview with a prospective employer. Now what? It is hard to know exactly what an interviewer will ask, if they will throw challenging questions what questions you should ask them. Even though each employer does things a little differently, there are ways you can practice your responses to common questions in order to better prepare for the interview. Even if the types of answers you have prepared do not come up in the interview, they will still be good practice for talking about yourself and your experience.

Tell Me About Yourself

Many interviews start with some variation of this statement. Prior to an interview, work on a brief overview of your experience and why you would be a good fit for the job. Include any relevant training or education. This is a commercial about you and a chance to make a good first impression. Remember to keep your statement brief, and avoid going into great detail about your life story.

How Did You Hear About Us?

When an employer asks this question, they are not necessarily trying to collect data on how job seekers hear about the company. They want to see if you did your homework prior to the interview. Always make time to read up on a company before you arrive for an interview. This is also a good way to come up with some questions for the interviewer about the job as well as the company.

When you do your research on the company, get a sense of how you might fit into the culture there. This will help you to figure out how to highlight the areas of your experience that show you are a good fit. An employer may also ask you why you want to work for them. Being prepared with background information on the company will help you answer this question.

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job? Tell Me About this Gap in Your Employment.

Both of these questions can trip up a candidate—especially if your reason for leaving a job or being off work for a long time were not positive. While you may be tempted to lie to cover up problems in your past, this may lead to trouble when an employer conducts a background check and finds out the truth. It is better that they hear it from you, so put some time into practicing how you will answer questions about problems in our past.

Put a positive spin on negative experiences. For example, if you were fired from a job for attendance issues, explain what you have done to make changes. Maybe the issue was with not having reliable transportation, but you now have a good car, so this is not a problem anymore. Avoid blaming a past employer or your boss for the problems. Accept responsibility, and show how you have changed from the experience.

The same goes for gaps in employment. While you do not need to go into great detail about the reason for a gap, be honest. It is sufficient to say that you were taking time off to look for a new job, go to school or deal with family issues.

What Type of Pay and Schedule are You Looking for?

Be honest with your answers to these questions. Sometimes candidates are tempted to say what they think the interviewer wants to hear. You want to make sure the job is a good fit in terms of pay and schedule, so it can cause problems at the time of hire if you lie about availability or accept a job that does not meet your financial needs.

When an employer asks about pay, they often want to make sure you are in the pay range for the position. It ends up being a waste of time for you and the interviewer if you keep interviewing for a job that is way below the wage you need to pay your expenses.

This advice also works for questions about the type of work environment you are looking for. Remember that you want to make sure the company is a good fit for you, so make sure the business is a place you would be comfortable working.

What Was Your Biggest Accomplishment at Your Last Job?

It is a good idea to come up with a few things you are proud of from your previous work. Remember that you can also draw from volunteer experience and school if your work history is limited. Come up with several different examples as well as things that you learned from in the past. These are stories you can draw from if asked specific questions about things like how you handle difficult customers or a time you worked through a disagreement with a coworker or supervisor.

What are Your Strengths/Weaknesses?

It is usually easy to come up with a couple strengths, but candidates often struggle with how to answer questions about weaknesses. As with blemishes in your work history, turn a negative into a positive. If, for example, public speaking makes you nervous, talk about how you have started attending Toastmasters meetings to work on getting more comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.

Be Prepared to Talk About You

It is a good idea to get a friend to interview you prior to meeting with an employer. This is a chance to practice speaking about yourself and your experience. The more you do so, the more comfortable you will feel during an interview. If an interviewer stumps you with a question, you can ask them to come back to the question later. Just because you cannot come up with an answer on the spot, it does not mean you have automatically disqualified yourself. Many candidates get nervous, and interviewers are often willing to give you a chance to think about your answer.

Are you formerly incarcerated and looking for more help preparing for interviews? Get in touch with us to find out how Pacific Reentry Career Services can help you prepare for your job search.

Pacific Reentry Career Services News

We have been busy working behind the scenes as we launch Pacific Reentry Career Services. As we have been hard at work filing nonprofit paperwork, setting up insurance and planning all our programs fro job seekers and employers, we received word from the IRS that we were granted 501(c)(3) status.

So, what does this mean for Pacific Reentry Career Services? Having 501(c)(3) status officially makes us a nonprofit as recognized under the IRS tax code. This opens up possibilities for us to apply for grants to help fund the programs we create to get formerly incarcerated women into meaningful jobs that will help them rebuild their lives. It also means that all donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

We are also happy to announce the 2016 Reentry Solutions for Success Conference in Ontario, CA. The conference will take place October 19-20 and will be organized by the Federal Reserve Bank, the Orange County Reentry Partnership and other organizations. Stay tuned to our blog for more details. We hope to see you there!