Thursday, April 24, 2014

Getting On the System

It seems like welfare is a hot topic nowadays. Taxpayers get upset about having to pay for those that they deem are just plain lazy and would rather sit back and collect a check than work, and many of those on welfare are breaking their necks to get off. Here is an article and me and my husband’s decision to apply to get on the system.

“Job for felons! Get your jobs for felons here!”
I would have loved to hear someone yelling the following statement for a street corner like they used to do for newspapers, but the only ones who would make such a statement are probably drug dealers, thieves, or some other kind of criminal. Seriously though, when a person is a felon, it is very difficult to find work. As many of you know, my husband James was charged with a felony 15 years ago for a crime he did not commit. He has filled out about 100 applications for work over the past five months and has not found anything. Neither of us thought that our marriage would consist of me working full-time as the sole breadwinner and us struggling to make my check stretch to cover two people. Our marriage is great otherwise, but we thought he would be unemployed for a short period of time, but as time goes on, we are learning little by little just how high the chips are stacked against him.

You know that line on a job application that says something like this: ‘A criminal record does not necessarily disqualify you as an applicant?’ The truth is that felons are automatically disqualified, but it gets better – those on the sex offender registry are practically burned in effigy by employers. It’s not just hard, it’s real hard. But wait, there’s more! There are some employers that are willing to look past the criminal section of the job application if they are in desperate need of help. Those on the registry who are still on parole must report their employer to their parole office. When they do, the PO is supposed to call the employer and let they know that you are on parole and your charges. James just found out that his by-the-book PO intends on doing this if he finds work.

 The scariest part is finding a job and the boss finds out his charges and mistakenly thinks that he is guilty and some kind of pedophile, rapist, or something like that and takes the law into his own hands against James in some way. I understand people’s zeal for disliking those on the sex offender registry, but most people on the registry did not commit sex crimes. Furthermore, like all other charges, being convicted is one thing, but being actually guilty or innocent is something else which is why vigilantism is a premature way of handling things because the vigilante never knows the whole story or if the accused is even guilty. There are plenty of people in jail that did not commit the crime they were accused of. Fear of vengeful bosses or others the boss blabs to has brought James’ job search to a stop.

In case anyone is lost let’s sum it up like this – 1) It is hard for an ex-con to find a job. 2) It is really hard for a felon to find a job. 3) It is impossible for registered sex offenders to find a job. 4) When either of these is on parole and manages to find a job somehow, it is the parole officer’s job to call your new boss and tell them all of the person’s business.

Getting Paid Under the Table
“But Erica,” you say, “why doesn’t he try to look for a job that pays completely under the table?” Good question! We have been looking for jobs for him that pay under the table, but they are harder to find. The problem with these is that there are many jobs he can do for himself where he can work as a contractor for an individual as a house sitter, a dog walker, or a personal assistant, but anyone with sense will perform a background check on someone who will be in their home.

We have a few ideas for starting his own business, but we don’t have any startup capital and neither of us have good enough credit to get a loan. I have also looked into some freelance office work that I can do on the side. A little work did come through, but not enough to supplement our income.

The System
I did not fully understand it before when people would say that the judicial system is designed to send ex-cons back to jail, but now I understand it more than I would like. The US government touts second chances for convicts by going back to school and pulling one up by their boot straps, but that’s only for a handful of people. Many people turn back to criminal activities because it is very difficult to find a job. We feel screwed by the system, to say the least.

So what do you do when you feel like the system is failing your family? Use that same system to get a check! To say that the government has let down ex-cons is like saying the fires that burned a large part of Rome in Nero’s day could be put out with a glass of water. I thought I would feel like a failure by getting loathsome welfare and food stamps, but I surprisingly feel very good about it. James and I feel a sense of satisfaction in knowing that we are making Uncle Sam pay for our troubles.

“But Erica,” you say, “that money is coming from taxpayers’ dollars.” Correct you are, and I do not feel badly about it at all. These taxpayers include small-minded employers, by-the-book parole officers, and judges that make hasty decisions without any proof because they are up for re-election. It also includes crooked lawmakers that continuously work to make the system harder on individuals while they sit back on their yachts in the Caribbean while drinking Bahama Mamas.

Yet, there is an upside to all of this. Perhaps James can get some additional schooling while he is collecting from the government to make the job search easier once he gets off of parole, but he will still be on the registry. Well, if it is still difficult for him to find work at that time we can continue to collect from the government.

What do you think? Is there something that James and I are overlooking when it comes to helping James to find work? What are your views about getting on Welfare or receiving food stamps? Leave your comments below, and be sure to +1 and subscribe.

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