September 26, 2004

Something positive about ex-cons (for a change)

Since shortly after Dustin Hoffman was in "Straight Time", it's been unfashionable to show much empathy in public for probationers and parolees, so I was pleased to see my George W.-embracing local paper recognizing that it makes fiscal and business sense for private enterprise (with a few incentives) to take a chance on ex-cons. The Times-News printed this article, Sunday edition, page 1, above the fold:

"A chance for change ... Business owners give felons new skills, new direction"

It's the story of Robert and RoxAnn Glasson, of Glasson Construction in Twin Falls, Idaho. "They began hiring ex-offenders last year 'to give them a boost,' Robert said. 'It's me giving them a career,' he explained. 'Instead of them going out and flippin' burgers they can say, "Hey, I've got something to do in life. I don't have to go do drugs."'"

Glasson wants to steer people to a more productive path, and his reasons are personal.

"'Back in 1996 I got caught up in the wrong crowd,' he said. 'I went to pre-release ... I did 15 months, then was on probation.' Glasson found someone who was willing to take a chance with him and teach him a new skill. Glasson is looking for grants or federal assistance, not as a hand-out to build his business, he said, but as a way to keep other offenders from slipping back into crime."

("The Workforce Investment Act -- funded by Congress and allocated to states by the Department of Labor -- provides assistance for job training to adults, youth and dislocated workers. Money for ex-offenders falls under the adult category.")

A former Twin Falls County criminal defendant says of the chance he's been given:

"I think this program he wants to get going is great, just from what it's done for me. Take these people and, 'Here's an option. You don't have to go out and steal to make money.' Good carpenters make a lot of money. I can see it benefiting a lot of people.It's nice to come back and see what you've done, It's good. It keeps me out of trouble. I don't have enough energy to do anything else."

(Extensive quotes are here because a) I want to lead you to read the whole article, and b) after seven days, you won't find it in the Times-News' free archive.)