The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 25, 2008

Finding work after prison nearly impossible

By CARL E. FEATHER - Lifestyle Editor - cfeather@starbeacon.com

A portion of Ashtabula County’s unemployed can’t find a job because of their prior address – a prison cell.

“That’s practically a disability,” says Patrick Arcaro, director of the Department of Job and Family Services for Ashtabula County.

“Dan,” a Lake County native who has spent 26 years of his life serving four prison sentences, agrees. Living in Ashtabula County since his release from prison last fall, Dan has found nothing but closed doors as he searches for work.

“This time, I decided to change my life,” he says. “I got out with the idea of doing the right thing, getting a job and going to school.”

He has applied for at least 50 advertised positions and at employment agencies.

“When I do the right thing and be honest about my past, that ends the interview, right there,” he says.

Dan, who did not want to be identified because he finally found a job with an employer who had not inquired into his past, says he knows he’s working on borrowed time.

“Eventually, they’ll do a background check, and I’ll be fired,” he says.

Dan has about nine months left on his parole period, after which time he’ll be free to leave Ashtabula County. He has no family support. Just getting by is extremely difficult, but he’s determined to stay out of prison.

“If I have to stand out in Jefferson holding a sign ‘Will work for gas and food,’ I’ll do it,” he says.

Others who have served their time may not be as determined as Dan, however.

“There are a lot of people coming out of prison who are hard workers if they are given the job,” Dan says. “Basically, (the system forces) us to go back into crime.”