Hiring People Under Community Supervision-An Employer’s Perspective-Andre Marr

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From our nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  We continue our conversations about employing people under supervision.  We have, before our microphones today, Andre Marr.  Andre is the CEO and President of A&E Heating and Air Conditioning here in the nation’s capital.  He is also involved in something pretty serious.  Andre at one time was caught up in the criminal justice system.  He wants to give back.  He started Product of the Product, which is www.productoftheproduct.org, to train individuals caught up in the criminal justice system. Before getting on to the interview, our usual commercial: thanks everybody, thanks to everybody for listening and all the comments, the letters, the emails, and sometimes phone calls.  If you need to get in touch with me directly, you can do so via email: Leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or follow us by twitter, that’s twitter.com/lensipes, and again, before our microphones, Andre Marr, the president and CEO of A&E Heating and Air Conditioning in Washington D.C. to talk about hiring people under supervision.  Andre, how are you doing?

Andre Marr:  I’m doing great, thank you.

Len Sipes:  Now you’ve had this company for about 14 years.  At one time, you were caught up in the criminal justice system.

Andre Marr:  Absolutely.  At one time, I was part of the criminal justice system, and was, last time I was incarcerated was 1984, I’m glad to say.

Len Sipes:  And you crossed the bridge, as I like to put it.  You went from being a tax burden to a taxpayer, and now you’re hiring people, and you’re hiring not just people under supervision, you’re hiring all sorts of people, but you’re here today to talk about what it takes to hire people, what employers are looking for in terms of hiring somebody who is under supervision, what goes through their mind, but what caused you to make the break, to go from a tax burden to taxpayer, but to business owner?

Andre Marr:  Well, just the old adage, sick and tired of being sick and tired, was tired of doing the same thing, getting the same results.

Len Sipes:  Yep, and I’ve heard that, in 40 years in the criminal justice system, I’ve heard that about 10,000 times.  I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Somehow, some way, this is my refrain, or my response to that, somehow, some way, we’ve got to be able to reach the 25 years old, the 20 year old, and whoever figures that out is going to win the Nobel Prize.  You know what I mean?  Instead of reaching that guy when he’s 40 when he’s sick and tired of being sick and tired, reach them when they’re young when they’re still full of pee and vinegar.

Andre Marr:  Well, actually, it’s not all that difficult.  What we decided to do was become a product of what we were trying to create.  An example is the best, the best teacher.  Don’t ask me to do something you’re not doing yourself.

Len Sipes:  Amen.  Amen.  Example is the best teacher.  All right, now you hire people being supervised by Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, my agency, and you also are involved in the training program, product of the product.org, but that’s been three years.  You’ve been doing heating and air conditioning for 14 years.  What do you look for when you’re hiring somebody?  So one of, a person comes out of the prison system, and he’s in Washington D.C., and he comes to you, and so he did five years for assault or armed robbery, and he comes to you, and he’s looking for a job.  What’s going through your mind?

Andre Marr:  Well, what’s going through my mind is, are you able to maintain clean urines?  Do you have a drug problem?  Punctuality and attendance.  Those three major factors, and the biggest barriers that I find in employment in any sector, not just the ex-offender, people coming out of the criminal justice system, but people in general all suffer from these three major infractions.

Len Sipes:  Andre, do people have to be trained to come to you and find employment?  I mean, do they have to know heating and air conditioning, or with the right attitude and the right motivation, you will train them?

Andre Marr:  Well, attitude is very important.  Preferably, we would like for them to be trained.  A&E is no different from any other heating and air conditioning company.  If you come to us green, in other words, with little or no experience, then our investment in you wouldn’t be reaped for 2-3 years.

Len Sipes:  Sure.  So there has to, so in your mind, you’re looking for a little bit of training.

Andre Marr:  I’m looking for a little bit of training, but I’m looking for a lot of good attitude.  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You know, I was told a long time ago by a construction company here in town is, and they put it real bluntly, and some people are turned off by that level of bluntness, but they’re, when they were talking to a group of people they were thinking about hiring, they said shut up, show up, no baby mama drama.  I expect 8 hours for 8 hours pay, and if I need you to work overtime, if I need you to put in 12 hours that day, that’s what you do.  That’s what I’m looking for, and if you do that, I can give you a good career.  What’s your response to that?

Andre Marr:  Well, my response to that is generally the same.  However, different people come with different circumstances, different problems.  We’re living in a different world today.  Supervision in itself is a challenge.  The urinalysis, the reporting to the parole officer, probation officer, a lot of employers aren’t very lenient when it comes to allowing employees to fulfill some of these responsibilities.

Len Sipes:  Sure.  They want a clean urine, they’ve got to show up sober every day, of course.

Andre Marr:  Well, not so much wanting the clean urine, but having to take off to go and –

Len Sipes:  I hear you.

Andre Marr:  – participate in urinalysis –

Len Sipes:  I hear you.

Andre Marr:  – go off and participate in this.

Len Sipes:  What can we do as a bureaucracy?  We’re a federal agency with a local mission here in Washington D.C.?  What can this agency do to make it easier for you to hire our people?

Andre Marr:  Well, I think what the agencies need to do is to continue to provide the close supervision that they’re providing, the structure, the urinalysis, I can’t emphasize that enough.  If we could just stop burning up these cups, a lot of us could become gainfully employed, but the supervision and the structure overall, I think, is great.  The prospective employee just has to learn a little patience, and to remember that everything’s happening the way it was designed.

Len Sipes:  Is my agency a help or an impediment?  I mean, are we there working with you to hire the right person and to come to you and say, look, there’s not an issue in terms of dirty urines, the guy’s going to show up on time, if you have problems with him throughout the course of the day, the week, the month, the next year, come back to us.  Are we a help or are we a hindrance?

Andre Marr:  Well, in all fairness and honesty, I would have to say there are pros and cons to both sides of that question, but through my experience, I’ve found that your agency has been very helpful, very cooperative when they could.  They try to understand when they don’t, and they put forth a great effort.  I really do believe.

Len Sipes:  One of the things I do want to remind everybody that you can go to our website, www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov, again, stands for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a federal parole and probation agency serving Washington D.C., and you can go to the section on “Hiring people in community supervision,” and you can provide your own comments, and we really are looking forward to people, and getting their opinions, crowd sourcing this issue from the employment community, the business community, in terms of what it would take for us to do a better job of hiring the people under our supervision.  Andre, just a couple minutes left.  What’s the bottom line for us as an agency, in terms of convincing people to take another look at our offenders?  We have a stereotype, and people look at the evening news, and they read the newspaper, and it’s, a lot of it is people doing terrible things to other people, and so people are skeptical about hiring somebody who’s served time.

Andre Marr:  Well, this is true, and that stereotype is going to take a while to suspend.  Surely it doesn’t always turn out great, but I believe in most cases that most people deserve a second chance.  I guess a lot of us could look at our own lives and say, but for the grace, there go I.  It could have been me.  A lot of us have committed crimes, just haven’t been caught for them, so it could definitely go the other way, but it’s been my experience that most of these young men and women who have been caught up in the criminal justice system just want the opportunity to provide for themselves and their own family, and you know, to live a productive –

Len Sipes:  And that’s rather startling, and that’s a point that a lot of people don’t quite understand that virtually everybody that I’ve ever talked to coming out of the prison system, they desperately don’t want to go back.

Andre Marr:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  They desperately want a clean and sober life for themselves.  In some cases, they’re not quite sure how to get from point A to point B, and they continue within the criminal justice system, but people like you, it’s, I don’t want to say everybody’s got to serve time, everybody’s got to come from that life to be part of this.  But if you give them an opportunity, in many cases, with our help, with the, the bonding program, and the tax benefits of hiring somebody under those circumstances, and again, with our assistance, I think they’re going to end up doing well.

Andre Marr:  Absolutely.  I would concur.  Absolutely.  Someone gave me a chance, and so now it’s just my turn to do the same for someone else.

Len Sipes:  I appreciate what you’ve done.  Our guest today is Andre Marr.  Andre is the CEO and president of A&E Heating and Air Conditioning of Washington D.C.  He also, now he’s been doing this for 14 years.  He also has a training opportunity that he uses to try to give back, and to train individuals for jobs who have been caught up in the criminal justice system.  That’s www.productoftheproduct.orgwww.productoftheproduct.org.   The telephone number for A&E Heating and Air Conditioning in Washington D.C. is (202)608-1349, (202)608-1349.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety.  Again, we appreciate all of the comments that you’ve made to us throughout the last 3½ years.  We’re up to 225,000 requests on a monthly basis for the radio, television show, blog, and transcript, and we want you to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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