Globl Grind has asked Chaz Williams, CEO of BlackHand Entertainment to write a weekly column answering questions from our users about how to deal with some problems that we all face. As profiled on BET’s American Gangster, Chaz has a long criminal history, but turned his life around and is now one of the most successful executives in the music industry.
Q: Dear Chaz, I got two felonies on my record and can’t get a job. Any ideas?
A: The job find for an ex-offender is difficult but not impossible, especially in these times where the unemployment rate is at an all time high. Jobs are scarce for the ordinary citizen without a felony conviction, so an ex-offender has to be on his A game. Felonies do not preclude you from working, it only restricts you from working jobs that require certain security and moral clearances. Most city, state, and government jobs are off limits, but there are some state programs for ex-felons in certain states that will hire but let’s assume that is not an option. First, you have to get your expectations right. Don’t expect to land a job as a bank teller, if you have a robbery conviction. So make a list of jobs in the market that you can realistically apply for. Next, and most important, ask yourself, do you have the skills, education, or experience to qualify for the job. Once you line up those facts, you have a starting point, and from there develop what you need to go apply, resume, the right appearance, etc. I am not saying it is going to be easy because most applications have hat question on it “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”, and many jobs do background checks. It’s a catch-22 sometimes but don’t lie on the application, that will definitely come back to haunt you. Get your search on, there are industries that are more open than others, like construction, landscaping, private sanitation, or some service industries like food service, etc. Again, it’s not easy, it’s a grind, but working in a McDonalds beats the hell out of serving potatoes behind a prison mess hall line. This is a computer age, get on one and use it to research. Check for local ex-offender programs. But don’t expect a miracle, they can give you referrals but you still have to do the work. Some states have legislation which allows certain felons to have their convictions expunged or their records sealed. New York State has a Certificate Of Relief program. You have to have the will to find the way. There will always be obstacles in life, whether you are a felon or non felon, you have to learn how to get around it or go through it to reach your goals. Don’t use the “I have a felon and can’t get a job” cop-out, make it happen, or get ready for that mess hall!
Q: Dear Chaz, Have you ever been in jail? What was it like? It seems that all of my friends are going to jail and it’s not a place I want to go.
A. Well, you have the right mentality about staying clear of a jail cell. To answer your first question, I was in jail, I spent 15 years on my last incarceration, 5 years before that, and about 2 years in juvenile facilities. The prison experience is probably the closest thing to being dead. It’s like one continuous nightmare, you can’t shake. Every morning you wake, you are in a place you hate, and it’s no way out. Going to prison is not something I would recommend to get t