How to Start Over After Prison

A big part of moving on outside prison walls is becoming gainfully employed.
••• prison image by Albert Lozano from

Trying to establish yourself in a community after incarceration can be a challenge. Experts say that about two-thirds of those released from prison return for parole violations or new offenses because they do not properly regain their footing in society. Finding employment is one of the biggest challenges, but following some specific steps should ease the burden and help a person recently released recapture the confidence he needs to once again be a productive member of society.

Talk to your counselor or parole officer about what types of jobs you should not pursue based on your crime. If you didn't complete high school, work toward your GED now. Look through your local newspaper's classified ads. Use Internet resources for assistance, including Jobs for Felons, the "From Jail to a Job Step-by-Step Guide" or the National H.I.R.E. Network (see Resources).

Make a list of what agencies offer help in your community and contact each of them to see what potential employment or training is available. Local county job services or job stores can be found in the telephone book under county government listings. Local Goodwill stores are also known for assisting people with criminal backgrounds.

Choose the right friends. Continuing to gather with those who might have had a hand in the trouble you made in the first place will stall your chances of success. Surround yourself with people who are uplifting and who will lead you down the right paths.

Be honest. Most employers will work with you if you tell them the truth and discuss how you have changed since your experience. Always answer "yes" when a job application asks whether you have ever been convicted of a crime. Practice interviewing honestly with a friend or at the local employment agency.

Let go of the past. Do not let a "chip on your shoulder" or anger about your situation impede your progress. Stay positive and move forward. Obtain counseling to discuss emotional issues if possible. If local therapy is unavailable or not an option, try an online site such as Prison Talk to help you with issues (see Resources).

Dress nicely, be polite and avoid slang talk when going to an interview. Do not smoke before an interview, and remain drug free. Make sure you hold identification that isn't affiliated with the corrections facility you were housed in. Do not bring friends or family members to an interview.

Take an entry level position if it becomes available to you, even if it's not what you want long-term. Stay with an employer at least six months before looking for another position.


  • When it comes to downsizing or cutting employment, someone with a criminal record might be the first to go. Do not take it personally -- if you were the last one hired, you might have been let go first regardless.
  • Ex-prisoners who job hop because there appears to be a better deal will have a more difficult time establishing relationships. Even if you are being paid minimum wage, recognize that you will be compensated in the future after you have proven yourself.


  • Become a regular at the local employment agency.
  • Treat the search like a job. Spend as much time looking for a job as you would be working on a job. Make it an important priority.

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