The challenge: Flip the stigma
Singapore has done it: we can, too.
WE RECENTLY SPOKE with one of our strongest supporters who summed up the challenge perfectly. We’ll call him Dave. For years Dave has managed a large bicoastal warehousing and shipping operation. Without even knowing it, he had been hiring ex-offenders. He noticed after awhile that a handful of his employees were working harder, with more intensity and focus, rising to leadership roles in the warehouse. As he got to know them, he realized that they were often people who had arrests and convictions in their past.
FORMER OFFENDERS ARE ON THEIR TOES, Dave discovered, partly because they know that they are being scrutinized, by themselves and others. “They have something to prove,” Dave would say. “They seem to be making up for lost time, and they have a strong sense of personal responsibility.” We approached Dave to do a profile of his experiences, and he approached the owner of his company to get approval. The owner refused to allow Dave to go public.
On realismNot every ex-offender is loveable. A good many aren’t even really salvageable. Believe us, we know. See more thoughts on realism here.
Our strategyWe tell success stories with real people and real voices. We saturate a target market with yard signs, and engage employers and civic leaders. See more on our strategy here.
WHAT DOES THE OWNER FEAR? He may fear disruption or theft on the shop floor, although this has never happened. More likely, he fears public perception. He fears that his brand will be damaged by a public that assumes that anyone who has served time is not worth ours.
SEEING A GLASS HALF FULL, Dave notes that in recent months his boss has taken a more active role in the company than ever before and is now managing the warehouse floor himself. “Now that he’s getting more involved with the warehouse and actually working side by side with the ex-offenders I’m hoping his outlook changes over this next year,” Dave said.
AT A RECENT CONFERENCE, of state and federal workforce services and parole officers, a guest speaker told the audience, “If you have a list of employers who are willing to hire ex-offenders, tear it up. If word ever leaks out, it will ruin your relationship with them.”
THAT IS OUR CHALLENGE. The stigma must be flipped. Public opinion must be reshaped so that employers who give second chances see this as a badge of honor, not something to hide and fear.
AMERICANS ARE A GENEROUS PEOPLE. Many Americans even profess beliefs which place redemption and second chances at the core of their faith. Singapore has done it. We can do it, too. We will know we have succeeded when Dave’s boss is not only willing but anxious to acknowledge what Dave has seen on the warehouse floor.
PLEASE HELP US GET THERE.