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If you have just gotten out of prison, you are probably feeling a mix of emotions. One of the biggest emotions will be joy as you regain your freedom, have the opportunity to see your family and friends again, and sleep in your own bed. However, after a short while, you may also develop a sense of anxiety as you worry about how you will gain employment with a criminal record. 

This is a legitimate concern, because without a stable job, you may consider that your only option is to return to crime to earn money. This is part of the reason why rates of recidivism are so high in Australia; 45.2% of prisoners released during 2018-2019 were back in prison within 2 years.

Your number one priority should be to make sure you do not return to prison, and the best ways to do that are to have a great support network, remove yourself from negative influences (friends or acquaintances involved in crime), and find a stable job.

How to get a job after jail

While having a criminal record can be a setback, it does not mean that the rest of your life has to be changed. You can still go out and find an honest way to make a living. Here are some of the top ways you can land yourself a job after prison in Australia.

Get assistance from an agency like workRestart

There are different agencies available that are dedicated to helping ex-prisoners get a job, and workRestart is one of them. It is a social enterprise that empowers those who have just come out of jail to get their lives back on track, and be a positive influence to society. workRestart has connections with a large number of partners, mentors and employers who want to hire you and give you a second chance. You can click here to visit their site.

Reach out to your previous employer

While in some cases, you will not be able to return to your previous job (for example, if you were convicted of stealing from your company, or other fraudulent activity), there are many cases where it may not be an issue. For example, if you were working as a construction worker before you were sentenced for selling drugs, they may not have an issue with hiring you again. They may have already seen you work for a few ya, know that you're a dedicated employee, and they don't need to train you up, as you have already done the work before. They may also see your time in prison as a learning experience that has now made you more determined than ever to put your best foot forward, and work hard to keep your job.

Work for a smaller company that does not conduct background checks

While many large companies and recruitment agencies these days will conduct background checks, smaller companies or certain industries may not require this. This is a good way to get your foot in the door. Even if it is not a job that you want to do for the long term, it is a great idea to work there for at least a year, so that you now have something on your resume after prison. When you look for your next job, you can explain that you came out of jail more than a year ago, but you have been employed since then and can show that you are trustworthy, especially if you can get a reference from your current boss.

Ask friends or acquaintances if their companies are hiring

If someone you know is working for a company that is hiring, you can ask them to put in a good word for you. They can explain on your behalf that you have a criminal record, but mention all your positive traits, and this may convince the hiring manager to give you a chance. Having a reference from someone they trust goes a long way, so this is a great option. 

If you're lucky, maybe one of your friends runs their own business, and can give you a job! Even if it is an entry-level job, it will be a great start, and they can be your reference if you look for another job.

Start your own business

If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you may consider starting your own business. Nowadays there are more options than ever, and you can even make money by creating viral content online, such as on TikTok. For example, if you wish to share about your experiences in jail, maybe you could post content about different things you experienced in jail, and answer people's questions about jail. Many people are fascinated with prison life (think of all the shows out there, like World's Toughest Prisons, Prison Break, Orange is the New Black, etc), and most of them will never experience it or have any idea what it is like. 

You may also decide to own a franchise in an area that you have experience in, or simply something that you think has opportunity to make a lot of money. There are lots of opportunities available, you just have to maintain a positive mindset, and give it a try.

Become an independent contractor or freelancer

If you are skilled in certain fields like carpentry, plumbing, or auto repair, you can become an independent contractor. You can also become a freelancer, if that is your area of expertise. For example, you can find jobs online as a copywriter, editor, translator, designer, website builder, and more, where you are paid for each individual job you complete, as opposed to being paid for your time. 

Another option is to be a driver for a rideshare company, such as Uber or Ola. While they may require background checks, depending on your criminal record, it may or may not disqualify you from being a driver on their platform. For example, driving under the influence of alcohol, high range speeding, driving while suspended/disqualified, and certain assault/property offences will prevent you from becoming an Uber driver.

Use a recruitment agency

Many recruitment agencies will conduct background checks, and it is best to be upfront with them about your situation. Explain to them that you have recently come out of prison, tell them how you have used prison as a positive experience to turn your life around, and highlight how you want to really apply yourself in a new job. Hopefully they can help you find a business that is willing to hire you and give you a second chance.

Search for jobs on SEEK

There are plenty of jobs available on SEEK, and some of them will ask for a background check. Do not let this stop you trying for jobs. The background check will come at the end, after your interview, if they find you a suitable candidate. It is up to you whether you wish to disclose your criminal record during an interview. The interviewers may ask you about the gap in employment, and that may be a time to be upfront with them and explain your situation. Be sure to focus on the positives you took from your time in jail, and how you have changed after leaving prison.

One of my friends who recently came out of jail took a different approach. He applied for the job, did his interview, and didn't mention his time in jail. When they conducted the background check and confronted him, he was honest at that point. He said, "I've just gotten out of jail after doing five years for fraud, how do you think I was meant to tell you that in the interview? There's no way you would have hired me." They must have really liked him from the interview, because they gave him the job, and it came with a very decent salary.

Ask an ex-inmate any questions about jail

If you have any quick questions that you are curious about, or if you are facing imprisonment and need some more info, please leave me a message below with your details. 

I am also available for telephone consultations if you need to chat for longer.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How hard is it to get a job after being in prison?

While it may seem extremely daunting, and near impossible to get a job after coming out of jail, do not despair. It might take a few months, but you will be able to find a job. Everyone that I have kept in contact with from jail found a job within about 2 to 3 months. There are many options out there for work, and even if it isn't something you love doing, it is always good to get your foot in the door so you have a job post-prison, before looking for another one.

Can I get a job if I've been to prison?

Yes, you most certainly can get a job if you have been to prison. While a criminal record might exclude you from certain jobs (depending on your convictions) or industries, there are plenty of other jobs that you can find. Use our tips above to help you get back on your feet and start afresh.

Can an employer discriminate against you because of a criminal record?

In 2019, the Australian Human Rights Commission Regulations 2019 included 'irrelevant criminal activity' to the list of protected attributes. This means that "discrimination made against employees, or prospective employees, for holding an irrelevant criminal record will now be deemed unlawful". 

So if you did time in prison for drug charges, and you are refused a job at an accounting firm because of this, that is discrimination. Your criminal record is irrelevant and unrelated to your ability to perform your job. However, if you are unsuccessful in a job application, it can be hard to determine whether this was the reason you didn't get the job, because the employer can simply say that there were more suitable candidates. However, if you were deemed a good fit in the interview (and you didn't disclose your criminal record), and then they found out from the background check, and chose to not hire you because of that, you may have grounds to make a claim for discrimination. If you think you have been unfairly discriminated against, you can speak to a lawyer for legal advice.

Conclusion

While you may not find a job immediately after leaving prison (only 22% find a job within 2 weeks, according to Health of Australia's Prisoners survey), it is definitely not something to worry too much about. You have just survived a mentally challenging experience and you deserve a bit of time to relax and enjoy your freedom after finishing your sentence. In Australia, we have government assistance for job seekers, so you at least have a little bit of money coming in. When you are ready to get back into the workforce, and start building a new life, I hope you can find the tips above useful.

If you have any comments or questions, you can write them below, or email me using the Contact Form. You can also arrange a paid telephone consult if you are interested in having a longer chat.

About the Author

I served a full-time custodial sentence in several prisons in NSW, and I hope that my experience can help others who are about to be sentenced. All the information provided on this site is based on my real personal experience, or experiences and anecdotes from inmates I have met during my incarceration.

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