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“Loaded Question” Makes WA Job-Hunt Tougher for Some

November 12, 2007

Portland, OR/Seattle, WA – It's hard enough to get a good-paying job in Washington, but if you're just out of prison, it can seem almost impossible. However, in the Portland area, Multnomah County has joined a small but growing number of employers to strike the question, 'Have you ever been convicted of a felony?' from job applications. They've decided it might be ruling out good workers who deserve a chance to prove themselves.

Seattle job counselor Sultan Mohammad believes it's about time. A job developer and case manager for Corrections Connection, a post-prison community reentry program with offices in Seattle and Tacoma, Mohammad explains part of his role is to help rebuild the confidence of those just out of prison.

"Build yourself back up, impress them and show them that you really, really want that job. They can feel that energy and that passion if you're really meaning it. Employers will give post-prison employees and chance to prove themselves. I've seen it happen, over and over again."

Mohammad says employment is a key part of getting his clients' lives back on track.

"They're trying to come out and be productive citizens and get their life in order, but if no one will employ them, then they naturally start gravitating back towards the same kind of behavior that got them in jail in the first place. People that we work with are really sincere, or else they wouldn't even came to our program."

Mohammad explains the recidivism rate drops by almost half when people get jobs. No city or county in Washington State has yet agreed to remove the felony question from applications, but Corrections Connection negotiates with a number of companies that will hire on a case-by-case basis. He's placed more than 1,000 people in the past year.

Multnomah County joins Boston, Chicago and San Francisco in removing the "felony question" from employment applications.

Chris Thomas/John Robinson, Public News Service - WA