Ep. 125 – Hiring Ex-Felons, with Kathryn Shibelski

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast I interviewed Kathryn Shibelski. Kathryn is a second chance hiring advocate. Her firm, KES HR Consulting, works with companies who are considering hiring incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people. The job candidates have often been convicted for drug offenses, white collar crimes, sex crimes, and even murder. 

Obviously, the idea of hiring people with criminal records could seem quite risky for a number of reasons, but according to Kathryn, second chance hires can thrive in the right work environment and even surpass the performance of employees with no criminal background.

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Main Points


Strengths of Formerly Incarcerated People

In various areas around the United States there are programs in prisons that train inmates in trades such as machining. 

Kathryn says formerly incarcerated people are often the most devoted, loyal employees. One reason for this is their gratitude for the opportunity just to have a job. Many ex-felons have few options for employment, so its extra important for them to hold onto their jobs, both for supporting themselves and to fulfill parole obligations. 

Also, formerly incarcerated people often come into jobs with a unique set of skills. In prison people are forced to be resourceful. They have to solve daily practical problems using limited resources that people on the outside take for granted.

 

Other Reasons for Second Chance Hiring

Companies who employ second chance hires can receive tax breaks through the work opportunity tax credit. Also, Federal bonding programs protect employers against losses caused by the fraudulent or dishonest acts of at-risk bonded employees.

Finally, Kathryn encourages companies to hire second chance employees because it helps communities end a cycle of repeat offenses that often occur when people are released from prison.

 

Second Chance Hiring Obstacles

One of Kathryn’s main services is helping companies with on-boarding second chance hires.

Often formerly incarcerated people lack resources that many of us take for granted, such as a bank account, transportation to get to work, and a decent place to live. Companies who hire them have to be ready to help their new employees cope with these challenges.

One of the greatest challenges for companies to successfully hire second chance employees is getting their current workforce to buy in. Kathryn is a proponent of employers keeping an open mind to people with all types of criminal backgrounds, but she says that every company needs to choose for themselves which candidates they feel comfortable working with. Everyone at a company has to be on board for second chance hiring, not just the top managers. Often at least one individual at a company has had a bad past experience with a certain type of offender, and this may cause it to rule out many candidates immediately.

Another criterion companies need to consider is how long a candidate was incarcerated. People incarcerated for a decade or more often become institutionalized, making them prone to emotional issues.

Kathryn admitted to me that even she has her own personal difficulties regarding certain types of offenders, but she still firmly believes that everyone deserves a second chance to turn their lives around. 

When reasoning with people who are resistant to second chance hiring, Kathryn suggests to them to think about their own friends or relatives who have made past mistakes or had poor luck navigating the U.S. criminal system. Have they made it back successfully?

To get in touch with Kathryn and learn more about her services, the best way is to go to her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathrynshibelski/.

Question: Would you consider hiring an ex-felon?

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