An Indefinite Punishment

Mar 31, 2024   |  By Ryan M. Moser

There is an art to cooking. That was what Benjamin learned after living in an apartment above a restaurant when he was released from prison, training with a chef while participating in a reentry vocational program. The program was a great stepping stone for Benjamin, but after finally being home in Cleveland, he wanted to explore other career options.

“My wife found the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), and I was hired for a transitional work crew,” Benjamin said. “I did that for a couple of months until my job coach got me an interview with a good staffing agency.”

At the interview, Benjamin was candid about his criminal charges and being incarcerated for thirty years; a week later, the staffing company called and offered Benjamin a job at a laundry service for a large clinic. When he reported to his supervisors at the clinic, he was straightforward with them as well about his charges and conviction.

“When I’m asked about my background I’m always upfront and honest, because it's the right way to do it,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin was a good employee who always showed up on time with a winning attitude, and he never had any complaints from his co-workers. But one day, six months after he’d been hired, the human resources department called Benjamin and told him he was terminated because they ran a background check and he couldn’t work there with his criminal charge.

“I was shocked when they called and said that they were letting me go,” Benjamin said. “When I went to fill out my termination papers at the company, a supervisor told me he was surprised that I was fired because I was a great worker and stayed in compliance.”

Benjamin asked for the cause of the termination and was told that there was a compan’t policy that didn’t allow someone with charges like his to work there. He responded by asking what relevance his charges had to do with him working in a laundry facility. He was told it was just policy.

“I was really upset when they took my job away. I called CEO and told them I got fired and they told me to come in for a meeting,” Benjamin said.

“My charges don't define who I am, so it was disappointing to hear that I was going to be punished indefinitely for mistakes that I’ve already paid for,” Benjamin said. “And if you can't get a job you go back to the streets.”

Luckily for Benjamin, the job coaches at CEO were able to help him get another job working in shipping and receiving. But for many, loss of employment such as this can be detrimental to their livelihood and reentry success, leaving them scrambling to figure out how to survive.

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