Ex-Cons Make the Best Workers!

A reader of the blog sends me to this article from SmartMoney:

Halloran says the former convicts are among his best employees. “They never miss a day, get drug tested and will work any shift,” he says.

Hiring ex-felons is an experiment that hundreds of business owners have tried — and one that state and federal governments have supported with tax breaks. Uncle Sam offers businesses a credit of up to 40 percent of income taxes on the first $6,000 of wages paid to each former inmate they hire, a deal similar to those offered for hiring from other targeted categories, like welfare recipients and the disabled….

For the most part, the ex-cons are humbled by circumstances and grateful for any job they can get. “‘Oh, thank you for giving me this job!’ isn’t something you hear from the general population,” says Karim Khowaja, who operates 16 Dunkin’ Donuts in downtown Chicago and has hired at least six ex-cons in the past 18 months. “They are very humble.” Apparently, working a coffee counter, sweeping floors or doing anything useful is better than being restricted to a half-way house — a step up from prison, but not a leap. What’s more, keeping a steady job is generally the only way an inmate can leave transitional housing and earn, say, a weekend pass to visit family.

. . .

Bob Strauss has owned Chicago convenience stores since the mid-1970s. Over the years, Strauss has hired as many as 80 employees qualified for the favorable tax treatment, including ex-cons. “It isn’t altruistic,” says Strauss; he’s reaped thousands of dollars in tax credits each year.

. . .

“You would be ridiculous not to [use] the program,” agrees Sherri Modrak. Modrak manages nine Chicago-area McDonald’s franchises; they employ about 15 tax-qualified employees a year in each of their restaurants and save, on average, $70,000 a year in payroll taxes. “It’s free money,” she enthuses.


  1. Jer Gee April 24, 2012 at 9:44 am | #

    It would be more civilized to spend money on social programs, which will reduce this country’s high incarceration rate, than to have the current obscene military spending that is in place.

  2. L. Catherine (@MixdBludMessags) April 24, 2012 at 10:51 am | #

    Just another indication of how apt the term Prison Industrial Complex is. The system removes any hope or desire of reaching the upper echelons of career success and makes felons grateful for minimum wage grunt work. Not only do ex-cons make the “best” workers, so do current-cons who work for literally cents/hour making products for the state. No wonder prison populations have exploded in the past twenty years: capitalism needs somewhere to put all these pesky, people of color, who have the gall to take up space and expect a decent life.

  3. Ryan C Daley April 24, 2012 at 9:50 pm | #

    Not sure if anyone here listens to Against the Grain, but there was a great show a few weeks ago (found here: http://www.againstthegrain.org/program/540/id/121142/wed-3-21-12-punitive-turn) which detailed how prison populations increased when the ghettos collapsed (in the program, we learn that ghettos existence are only sustained if its population is of some economic significance to the larger area/city/nation around it.) It’s *nice* to see that this process seems circular: ghetto-ghetto collapse-incarceration-employment-ghetto. Is this what they mean when they tell you that capitalism provides jobs?

  4. jonnybutter April 25, 2012 at 8:39 am | #

    “capitalism needs somewhere to put all these pesky, people of color, ”

    And not just people of color, although they are overrepresented. This is an addendum to Peter Frase’s Four Futures series. It really is a big question: what are all the ‘superfluous’ people supposed to do when the Future comes? And of course are already millions of ‘superfluous’ people right now who foolishly think they are only *temporarily* unemployed…

    Prison is a good solution. At least it takes the edge off, plus you get free menial labor.

  5. shaneoftexas May 24, 2012 at 9:50 pm | #

    And the employers pass at least some of those tax savings on to employee salaries, right? RIGHT?!?

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