Lets all be honest, the employment pool for production jobs that we are praying that our inmates receive once they're released are going away in droves.
I live in the Washington, DC area, and while there is a crane and construction site on every corner of the city, even I can see the change in the way that jobs around construction are even changing. These industries that we rush to tag our family members in upon their release from prison are fading...and fast! Sure, you can come home and look to learn a trade, and I definitely will even suggest that you do that before you're released if you can. But the reality is that technology is changing even the most rudimentary professions.
Are you a painter? Well, the guy down the street is too, and his website is better than yours. In fact, he emails his estimates to his clients from his iPad onsite while taking his measurements in the client's kitchen. Are you a landscaper? Great. The guys down the street purchased some program off of CNET's Download.com that allows them to give their clients 3D renderings of what they are planning to do the their backyard, as a free bonus. It does not matter!
Jobs are changing before our eyes, and if we do not adequately expose inmates to real training these guys are going to walk out of hell, and into the abyss of unemployment.
We must raise the bar! We must EXPECT our men and women behind bars to do more leading to release. Raise the expectation and even talk more about doing more...learning more...reading more. Lets encourage our mentors, religious supporters, community leaders, and small businesses to not only nudge our guys into the fading industries of days past, but to really begin training and pushing toward growing crafts of emergining industries and entrepreneurship.
Okay, I get it. Everybody is not going to be an entrepreneur, medical assistant or mobile app developer, but until we begin to reach higher for better jobs and better educational and training heights we will not realistically overcome the unemployment epidemic for ex-felons.
The one thing that we can all do is change the conversation. Speak up about the importance of our men and women needing to change their opinion of themselves. Tell them that they can choose any career that they want BEFORE they come home, and begin to start mapping out how to do it. Ask them to speak a little clearer and with less profanity. Its great to labor for your family, and in eras past this was the respectable and probably only way. Creativity and hunger combined with the already challenging complexity of that little "Check this box" portion of a standard job application says that we have to work smarter...not harder!