By Karen Gedney
I spent 30 years in a prison as a medical doctor and watched many inmates return to the prison for a variety of reasons. It didn’t take me long to realize how many barriers they faced that put them back into the system. Did you know that 58% of Nevada’s inmates that return to prison have NOT committed another crime? What sends them back in prison is a technical violation of parole according to our current Attorney General, Aaron Ford.
One of the main barriers ex-felons have in order to re-enter society successfully is getting a job. So, if you have a business and believe that individuals deserve a second chance and you also want the opportunity to make a significant difference in someone’s life, ask yourself: What are the pros and cons of hiring an ex-felon?
Let me start with the cons:
- Am I liable if he does something wrong? To reduce that risk, do due diligence, a criminal background check and evaluate case by case. Do not hire someone for a specific job if their crime involves that activity. Obtain a free fidelity bond funded by the federal government to protect you against employee dishonesty or theft. Be aware that if an ex-felon has been out for more than 7 years, he is no higher a risk of committing a crime than a non-felon. Also, most paroles are regularly drug tested by a probation officer or a half-way house at no expense to the employer.
So, what are the pros?
- It’s called the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit – $2400.
- Some states offer training funds for employers who hire ex-felons.
- If you hire an ex-felon, they can be more grateful and loyal because you gave them a chance and they know that it isn’t easy to job hop with a felony record.
- You are making a difference in the community by decreasing recidivism and saving the state money. Plus, you might be helping reunite a family which may need fewer social services.
Talk to Elaine Voight with My Journey Home. www.myjourneyhomenv.org. She is located in Reno and told me that she has 19 employers who hire ex-felons. You might like to talk to her or them.
They say every medical doctor has stories to tell of difficult cases, miraculous recoveries and the patients who touched their lives; for Dr. Karen Gedney, these stories are framed from behind the bars of the Northern Nevada Correctional Center where she served for thirty years as a doctor for the inmates housed there.
Gedney will be a part of this year’s Distinguished Speaker Series, which takes place on October 22 in Sierra 108 at 7 p.m. Her topic, “Looking at Prisons Through a Different Lens; Holistic Approach to Prison Reform” offers her insights based upon her experiences that are recorded in her memoir 30 Years Behind Bars: Trials of a Prison Doctor.