Hiring People on Community Supervision-DC Public Safety

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today we’re going to be interviewing Alex Vincent.  He is with the D.C. Department of Employment Services, Manpower Development Specialist, but the interesting thing about Alex is that he is currently under the supervision of my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  He came to us with an armed robbery charge out of prison, and he has an amazing story of leaving the prison system, struggling within himself in terms of the employment issue, gaining employment, eventually becoming, again, the Manpower Development Specialist for the D.C. Department of Employment Services, and this is all part of a series of radio and televisions shows that we’re doing here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency on the Employment Issue.  We are crowd sourcing this issue, if you will.  We are asking employers or anybody else who has an opinion to give us information as to what it takes to hire somebody under supervision, and with that introduction, Alex Vincent, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Alex Vincent:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Alex, again, you’ve served time in prison, you came out, and you came under our supervision here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, you’re charged with armed robbery, and you hit the streets, and what happened in terms of your issue regarding employment?

Alex Vincent:  Well, in terms of my issue in searching for employment when I came home, it definitely was a struggle.  I went to several places, tried to find gainful employment.  Unfortunately, I was turned away or turned down for the same reasons that a lot of ex-offenders are turned down or turned away from employment.  The stereotype that’s attached to ex-offenders is that they’re not going to work, or they’re serious, they’re still dangerous people, and of course, a lot of times, when you fill out an application, they do ask, have you been convicted in a certain amount of time.  Some ask the basic question: have you ever been convicted.  And with that being said, I definitely answer the question honestly saying yes, and when you answer that question yes, the next question behind that is, give some details about your conviction or whatever you were incarcerated for, and a lot of times, as you said earlier, coming back with an armed robbery, which is considered a violent crime, definitely the employers look at that, or that’s definitely an obstacle, and employers immediately, that’s a negative, and something’s negative attached to that.

Len Sipes:  Of course.  And you know, at the same time, in the 20 years that I’ve been doing this and talking to people under supervision, you know, most of them end up with employment, and some of these folks have had some fairly serious charges in their lives, and yet, they’re selling insurance, they’re driving trucks, they’re hiring other people to drive trucks for them, they’re business owners, somewhere along the line, they do make that transition from tax burden to taxpayer, and what we’re trying to do in the 10 minute program that we’re doing today is to figure out what are the key issues that help a person go from tax burden to taxpayer.  So what do you think, Alex, in terms of, because right now, you not only had this personal experience, but now you help people just, who are in the same shoes that you were in when you came out of prison.

Alex Vincent:  Definitely, definitely.  I do help others that’s under supervision as well, but one of the major things that help others to make that transition is that support: family support, some religious, religious background, upbringing, those are things, are key things to help individuals, but one of the things I think that, community support, and what I mean by community support is those employers, because you have a sense, you feel a sense of confidence when you can go get up and know that you’re a taxpaying citizen and feel that the community supports you coming back to the community, and gaining employment gives you that sense of confidence, especially if you go to an employer, you do an application, and right away, that’s not realistic, but the first person you go to employment gives you an opportunity, and you get it, that’s definitely a confidence booster that makes you want to do the right thing.

Len Sipes:  All you hear on the evening news broadcast, or if you read the paper, are the negatives about people who are from the prison system out in the community, and they commit other crimes.

Alex Vincent:  Exactly.  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Yet at the same time, I’ve talked to, in 20 years of doing this, literally hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of individuals who have the same charge you did who are out there gainfully employed, and so what do you say to employers?  I mean, they have that stereotype?  They read the paper, they watch the evening news, and so suddenly, someone representing that demographic, if you will, person out of prison is standing in front of them and is asking them for a job, and to overcome that stereotype is probably pretty difficult for some employers.

Alex Vincent:  Yes, I would find it being difficult for some employers, but what I would say to those employers is that some of the problems or issues that you think you may be faced with are not so much, you won’t be faced with as much –

Len Sipes:  It’s not as bad as they’re making it out to be.

Alex Vincent:  Exactly.  And I mean, it’s not very different from hiring employers or hiring employees or hiring persons from the regular community, from the street.  You’ll get some of the, some of the people that come from supervision or come from those backgrounds that’ll work just as hard, if not harder, and be more dedicated to doing, you know, doing the job and being, you know, a productive, and definitely make your business organization, be an asset to it.

Len Sipes:  The website is www.csosa.gov where we talk about tax credits depending upon circumstances, bonding programs, incentives to hire people under supervision, www.csosa.gov, and Alex, you know, it is, the point is this, is that I’ve talked to employers who have basically said that in some ways, hiring somebody under supervision was preferable to hiring from the larger community, because they had an ally in that parole and probation agent, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia, they had an ally that, if there was an issue that they could turn to to help them with this individual, and some people really like that combination.

Alex Vincent:  Exactly, and I agree, some people do like that combination, because one of the things that we know that clients that’s under the supervision, one of the main things to remain in society under supervision is that you have employment, and a lot of times, most persons coming from incarceration, they want to get to the lowest supervision that they can get to, and how you get there is through employment, and so when they go to employers and they try to seek employment or find employment, they try to maintain that employment just for those reasons, and as you said also, employers know that as well, and they know that if this guy’s coming to work, or if he on supervision, he’s going to see his probation officer, or his parole officer.

Len Sipes:  And all he has to do is pick up the call, he or she has to do is pick up the telephone and call the parole and probation agent or the community supervision officer, in our case, and basically say, hey, I have an issue, can you help me solve this issue?

Alex Vincent:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And that could solve whatever’s going on real quickly.

Alex Vincent:  Exactly.  Get right to the point.

Len Sipes:  But the bottom line is, and again, getting back to the stereotype, the overwhelming majority of people, regardless of the recidivism rates, the overwhelming majority of people who come out of prison don’t want to go back.  They don’t want to go back to mugging and thuging, they desperately want to be able to be part of regular society.  Am I right, or am I wrong?

Alex Vincent:  I think it, very right.  I think you’re right.  But one of the things that I think leads to a large, that leads to the recidivism rate being so large is that most persons under supervision find it so difficult to find employment, and like I said, that’s also a confidence booster for those persons.  If you come to society, if you come back to the community, and you have that support of local businesses, government agencies, nonprofit, whomever it may be that you’re seeking employment from, it gives you the confidence to say, you know, okay, the community accepts me, that I’ve done my crime, I’ve paid my debt to society, and I’m being accepted back into the community.

Len Sipes:  But at the same time, the people who we encounter under our supervision, or you with the Department of Employment Services with the district government, basically what you’re saying is no bullcrap, show up, be quiet, give 8 hours work, give 10 hours work, give whatever’s necessary, we don’t want to hear whatever issues you have.  You’re there to be employed, and you’re there to do a job, and that’s basically, you need to show up ready for work.  No issues, no bullcrap, no nothing, you need to go to work and show up for work and do whatever the employer wants you to do.  Is that our message?

Alex Vincent:  That’s definitely our message.  Show up, be ready for work, and be ready to go to work.

Len Sipes:  And I think we’re going to leave it there, because I think that that’s probably the best advice that you can give, and at the same time, we’re telling employers, look, please give our folks a chance, we can lower the crime rate, we can make a safer society, we can, we’ll spend less money out of our own pockets in terms of our own tax dollars by hiring people under supervision.

Alex Vincent:  Yep.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the bottom line.  Alex Vincent, the DC Department of Employment Services.  He is currently the manpower development specialist, currently under our supervision here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, again, the ongoing series of radio shows talking about employment.  We will be interviewing people under supervision, talking about their struggles, and we will be interviewing employers.  The website is www.csosa.gov where we’re asking you to go there and either call or leave messages for individuals telling us why you will either hire or not hire people under our supervision.  We want your opinion, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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  1. Samsung Galaxy S II says

    But the bottom line is, and again, getting back to the stereotype, the overwhelming majority of people, regardless of the recidivism rates, the overwhelming majority of people who come out of prison don’t want to go back. They don’t want to go back to mugging and thuging, they desperately want to be able to be part of regular society. Am I right, or am I wrong?

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