© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Finding Work After Prison

Diane Orson


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. 

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content