Opinion: Ex-convicts deserve better employment opportunities

Dominique Lyons

What’s so bad about convicts? Other than the fact that they’re convicts, they aren’t any different from all the other people in society. Some convicts are better at their jobs than law-abiding citizens, and others receive in-jail job training to become better than — or at least equal to — us law-abiding citizens.

Even so, many potential employers will not even consider hiring someone who has seen the inside of that dreaded six-by-eight box. At times, it is for good reason: Some convicts go to jail and become hardened; some go to jail pre-hardened and learn how to be better criminals (a type of job training, I suppose) and to keep their recurring visits fewer and farther between.

Some, though, leave jail reformed. They see the error of their ways (or the horror of imprisonment) and leave jail praying for a better future than they could have imagined going in. Even if only to stay on their parole officer’s good side, they want to earn money the legal way and doubtlessly hope to revamp their lives.

Knowing this disparity between those leaving (for however long) their jailhouse tenures exists, the fair man finds a way to sift through the muck and gather the diamonds that, with a little extra polishing, will gleam again.

The problem comes not in finding the solution, for that is as easy as the above metaphor. The problem comes in finding how to make that easy-to-say solution come about. How do we separate the good (but perhaps tainted) from the bad? In other words, how do we find the means to such an obvious end?

This is pure speculation, but I think the answer can be found in observation and paperwork. It would entail more work for the prison security, but if behavioral data could be gathered on convicts while they were in jail and then be pulled up at the request of a potential hirer, the reformed criminals could be separated from the chaff, allowing America to harvest a potentially valuable work force.

This isn’t speculation: once a convict has served his time, he no longer owes a debt to society, and so he should not be treated like anything less than a citizen. Something has to be done, and sooner is always better than later.

Dominique Lyons is a sophomore news major. Contact him at [email protected].