Doing More Than Time

An ex-convict who finds work is much less likely to return to prison. That's a boon to the individual, and to a society with 2 million people behind bars and some 600,000 likely to get out this year.

But making current employees out of former offenders can be tough. In most cases, prison has done little to prepare them for the job market. A few states have credible job-training programs to help convicts overcome a reluctance by many employers to consider anyone with a record.

Ironically, automatic rejection of applicants because of a criminal past may cut employers off from good workers. Ex-convicts can be loyal to employers who give them a chance.

True, about 40 percent of former convicts turn to crime again. But that statistic would almost certainly shrink if more businesses looked beyond the question of past felony convictions, and if state corrections departments did more to give inmates an opportunity to prepare for life on the outside.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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