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Do Work Release Programs Boost a Convict's Chance of Getting a Job?

Finding sufficient work to pay the bills can be extremely difficult for convicts following release from prison. This is due in part to the stigma associated with having a criminal record, as well as the loss of community ties that comes with being removed from society. However, many states offer inmates approaching the end of their sentences, the option of participating in work release programs. These programs allow the offender to get a "foot in the door" when it comes to securing a job after release.

Work Release Overview

Work release programs, sometimes referred to as transitional work programs, provide current convicts with the opportunity to earn wages by working at a job outside the correctional facility. These programs are generally available when the convict gets closer to the end of his sentence, allowing him to start working a few months or years in advance of release, depending on his offense and the rules of the particular state. Work release programs serve a dual purpose of facilitating a convict's transition from prison life to working life and helping pay back some of the costs of confinement. States are generally entitled to take a portion of the money earned by the prisoner as reimbursement.

Continued Employment

One of the main benefits of participating in work release is that the inmate gets a chance to demonstrate his value as an employee. While employment is not guaranteed at the end of the program, it is possible that the employer could have an opening for the convict after his release. For example, Louisiana estimates that 10 to 20 percent of inmates continue working with same employer following the completion of their sentences.

Building a Resume

Even if the convict is not offered a job with the employer that hired him for work release -- or he doesn't want to keep that job -- the program can help improve the inmate's resume for other employment opportunities. For instance, if he developed his wood-working abilities during the program, his newly acquired skill set may increase the number of jobs for which he is qualified after release. Further, if he was a good employee and worked hard, the employer may be inclined to offer assistance in his job search or provide a good recommendation. Likewise, the inmate might meet other employees during the course of the program, which can add to the network of people who might be of assistance in helping him locate job leads.

Eligibility

It is important to note that not all inmates are eligible for work release. Although state laws can vary, convicts who are serving time for murder or sexual assault are often ineligible. Further, those who attempted to escape while serving a sentence are also usually disqualified. While on the program, the inmate must follow all rules and regulations regarding how much he can work and when he must check in with the correctional facility. Inmates are also subject to drug testing and must seek approval before making any changes to their schedules. Failure to follow the guidelines can result in disciplinary action and termination from the program. This, in turn, could reflect poorly on the inmate's performance and ability to find work after release.



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