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GET OUT AND GIVE BACK/A Second Chance

Jane Hess Collins
By Jane Hess Collins
Posted on Oct 13,2010
Filed Under News , Community,
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ALEXANDRIA, VA. - My niece Sarah is a blue-eyed blond, 20 years old and works as a waitress in a steakhouse during her college summer breaks.
 
She comes from a good family, was a high school honors student and has worked since she was 16 years old. Now a sophomore at the University of Toledo, she gets up every morning committed to her goals of keeping up her grades, community service work and involvement in her professional business fraternity.
 
Christie is also a blue-eye blond, 23 years old, who works as a waitress in a steakhouse.  She comes from a good family, was a high school honors student and has worked her entire life as well. Christie also gets up every morning to, committed to her goal.
 
Her goal is to live another 24 hours without shooting heroin.
 
I met Christie at a fundraiser last week for Friends of Guest House (www.friendsofguesthouse.org), a nonprofit organization that helps female ex-offenders transition from prison to a productive life. Christie spent three and a half months in jail after forging checks to support her habit. It only got worse, she said, when her drug-dealer boyfriend was sent to jail ahead of her. Without money to support her habit, she stole from those who trusted her.
 
Jail was an eye-opener for Christie, and she has no intention of going back. Interestingly enough, she said you could pinpoint which offenders would be cycling through prison again and again, and which ones were scared straight.
 
Sometimes people need a second chance.
 
My dad once hired an ex-offender (I’ll call him Mike) about 20 years ago to work at his lumberyard in Ohio. Mike admitted he did time for robbery in Arizona. He had changed, he said, and needed someone to believe in him enough to give him a new start. Always a softie, my dad hired him as a carpenter, and often said that Mike was one of the best, most hardworking employees he had ever hired.  Dad predicted that Mike was so good that he would leave for a better job. Sure enough, Mike was picked up by a senior carpenter a few months afterward and moved on.
 
The ex-offenders I talked with at the fundraiser last week work at Staples, HomeGoods, and other national chain stores, and I admire the store managers for taking that risk in hiring them.
 
I’m not advocating that businesses hire every ex-offender looking for work. Employing someone with a criminal history requires background checks, references, good judgment, a little intuition and a whole lot of common sense. Sometimes the crime committed makes the ex-offender ineligible for certain jobs, and for very good reason. But I am suggesting that some ex-offenders be given consideration as a potential employee rather than an automatic door-in-the-face.
 
Sometimes, some people deserve a second chance. And they might be the best employee you’ll ever have.
 
Get out and give back.
 
Jane Hess Collins is a retired Air Force colonel who writes to inspire people to contribute. She is also a public speaker, conducts workshops for clients to discover their most intrinsic way to serve, and has established game nights for at-risk families throughout the country. You can contact her for speaking engagements or workshops at www.getoutandgiveback.com.



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