Finding Work After Prison
Each month, about 100 people are released from prison and return to the city of New Haven. Many have a tough time finding work. Large employers often won’t hire ex-offenders. New Haven has passed a new ordinance that standardizes the procedure to get street vendor or food cart permits in the city.
37-year old Harold Williams was discharged from prison in January after serving 2 ½ years for selling drugs.
"Is so many guys, we coming home. And now New Haven has taken away every excuse. If you did wrong, New Haven saying we still got your back. We’re not going to leave you out high or dry."
Williams is talking about changes to the licensing process for food carts or street vendors in the city.
Its similar to the earlier Ban the Box program, which moved criminal background checks from the first thing a job applicant was asked, to later in the application process.
Amy Meek is coordinator for the city’s prison re-entry program.
"When the city decides whether or not someone’s criminal background is relevant to employment, we’re considering the same standards as we are when we’re considering whether or not someone’s criminal background is relevant to whether they can get a license or a permit with the city."
After being denied licenses many times, Harold Williams says he’s begun to sell clothing, jackets and footwear with his girlfriend, and hopes one day soon to operate his own food cart.
Williams says he has another option now to provide for his five children, besides hustling drugs.
"I do have an honest job and they don’t have to worry about me going back to my old ways. Now they know that Daddy stand for something positive. A positive role model, the role model that I want them to know me as."
The ordinance also directs the city to collect and publish data on the indirect or collateral consequences of having a criminal conviction.