A Wisconsin organization is hoping to make joining the workforce easier for ex-convicts.
WISDOM, a prison reform group, has joined the National Ex-Offenders Re-Entry Program in an effort to get companies to eliminate criminal history questions on job applications.
The project is asking any company that does business with the federal movement to do away with questions regarding criminal history. La Crosse has already eliminated a criminal history box in applications for county jobs, but some say it shouldn’t stop there.
Father to a new baby boy Jordan Holter has worked hard to improve his life each day, but his road to happiness has been tough.
“In 2004 I started using and using heavy drugs and it went on in about a decade,” Holter said.
After going in and out of prison 19 times Holter reached out to the county.
“I asked for assistance to actually live a normal, sober life day to day rather than in prison,” he said.
He now holds a steady job as a cleaner at the local American Legion, but his criminal history has made the application process difficult.
“Even though I am qualified in what they are looking for just one check mark seems to put me in a different pile,” Holter said.
Jane Klekamp a former employee with the La Crosse Criminal Justice department said things like criminal history questions on job applications stack the odds against ex-offenders.
“Three years after leaving prison over 50 percent of the people are still unemployed,” Klekamp said.
She said eliminating the question will eliminate bias and contribute to a stronger local workforce.
“If we can provide the right kinds of services and assistance to them so they can be productive workers that will be helpful to the community, employers, everybody in the long run,” she said.
Holter believes removing the criminal history box would give him a better shot at getting an interview and eventually a job. Until then, he will use it as a reminder to keep moving forward.
“Before it used to be discouraging when I checked the box and now it’s more of a motivational thing for me, to show them that I’ve changed,” Holter said.
Now even if criminal history questions are on job applications employers legally can’t use that as a reason not to hire a candidate, unless it would impact the job.