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Government Programs That Help Ex-Offenders Get Jobs

Getting a job after incarceration is often a challenge, but there are certain government programs that assist in the transition from prison to work. Some of these programs provide tax incentives for employers who hire former prisoners, while others bond ex-convicts to increase their chances of finding gainful work. Other programs provide job training and educational assistance for anyone, including former inmates, who want to enter a new trade or profession.

Bonding Programs

Federal inmates who participated in the Federal Prison Industries program, also known as UNICOR, may be bonded through the UNICOR Federal Bonding Program. This bond protects an employer by providing reimbursement if the bonded ex-inmate engages in theft. A separate Federal Bonding Program provides fidelity bonds for ex-inmates or individuals who have difficulty qualifying for bonding. These programs are managed by state workforce agencies; interested ex-offenders should contact these agencies to qualify for the program. (

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

An employer who hires a felon within one year of his release from prison or the date of his conviction may receive a substantial federal tax credit through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program. The newly hired employee can't be a former employee, relative or majority owner in the company. There's no limit on the number of employees that an employer can hire to receive these tax credits.

Workforce Programs

Each state has its own workforce program that helps people find jobs and job training. These workforce programs usually manage bonding programs and process paperwork for employer tax credits as well. Workforce offices are sometimes integrated into One-Stop Career Centers, which provide comprehensive services to job seekers. These services include job banks, training services and referrals to outside agencies or programs that can help them find work. Certain One-Stop Career Centers also offer phones, fax machines and computers with Internet access for job seekers to use in their search.

Federal Student Aid

Former convicts are usually eligible for federal financial aid programs, though two limitations for eligibility may apply. The first restriction is on those who committed a drug crime while receiving federal financial aid, though it's possible to restore one’s eligibility by completing a rehabilitation program or passing unannounced drug tests. The second restriction is on sex offenders who are required to enter into civil confinement after they're released from prison. These offenders can't receive Pell Grants, though they're eligible for other types of aid. The Department of Education urges those with criminal convictions to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid anyway, because the applicant may still be able to receive grants, scholarships or loans through other sources.



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