Released Offenders Face a High Unemployment Rate

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COLUMBIA - In Boone County, 4 percent of released offenders are employed full-time within three months of their released. In2Action, a faith based, drug-free home for released offenders, is working to improve that statistic. The organization not only provides a place to stay, but also helps them find jobs. Through In2Action, 29 percent of released offenders using its services are employed full-time within one month and 72 percent are employed within five months.

According to In2Action director Dan Hanneken, full-time employment is the greatest factor for determining whether a released offender will go back to prison. He said the problem, however, is less than one third of employers will actually even consider hiring an ex-offender. But he said everyone has a stake in this.

"When released offenders are employed full-time, they are less likely to take victims in our community," Hanneken said.

In2Action helps provide "transitional" employment for those offenders who can't find jobs with its lawn care service, but this job only lasts a few months. Hanneken said to help keep these offenders from committing additional crimes, they need full-time jobs.

He urges companies to get rid of blanket laws that don't allow ex-offenders at all.

"I would not advocate for a pedophile to get a job at a daycare, and I would never advocate for a violent offender to get a job as a greeter at Walmart," Hanneken said." But, very, very often, the crime is not associated with the job responsibility at all."

Some ex-offenders at In2Action said they have turned their lives around and don't want to be put in the same group as other ex-offenders.

Joe Palazollo spent 19 of the last 23 years in prison. He starts college August 21 and is studying social work with a goal, he says, of "helping people."

Just last year, Nick Rosencrans was in prison, but currently he has a full-time job in highway construction and is going to bible college.

They both want to tell employers the same thing.

"Give us a chance," Rosencrans said.

"Some of us just need a chance," Palazollo said. "You never know how you're going to change someone's life by giving them a chance."

Hanneken said providing jobs for released offenders could actually reduce crime rates since it would decrease the chances they commit additional crimes.