Rebuffs in official Louisiana economy stress former TN prisoner Whipple

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Rob Whipple, now free from state punitive enslavement in Tennessee, seeks new life in Louisiana. The friend is Amber Albritton. (Photo Facebook)

Rob Whipple was released in June from a Tennessee prison and is finding that his criminal record for property offenses is holding him back in a new life in Louisiana. He is self-taught in law, and as an inmate filed federal lawsuits against the system and its for-profit operator, CoreCivic, for abuses. He is a former correspondent whose tribulations were also covered at Thepostemail.com. — DJT

By Rob Whipple

So I am coming to realize I’ve made a grave mistake coming to Louisiana. I’ve been here over a month, have sent out hundreds of resumes and applications, gone on dozens of interviews, and even received a handful of “contingent” job offers, contingent upon “passing” the background check. In each and every case, once these companies that were so excited to hire me found out that I have record (all non-violent, property crimes, more than 7 years old), all communication stopped.

So now what? Should I say the hell with it, get high and throw away 7+ years clean and sober (and most likely end up back in prison)? Should I make a sign and panhandle beside the interstate? Make up a fake disability and find a shady doctor to go along so I can get SSI? Try to stay clean and do just enough burglaries or forgeries to get by, hoping I don’t get caught? It seems like I don’t have any really good options here.

In Louisiana, 43 percent of ex-offenders will return to prison within five years of their release — the state has the highest incarceration rate in the world and one of the worst recidivism rates in the country. Perhaps this is because there is little to no work opportunity for ex-offenders. 1 in 13 U.S. adults have a felony conviction. Can we really afford to render such a large percentage unemployable?

Does this make us safer? I think it does the opposite, because it leave ex-offenders desperate and broke, and therefore likely to commit new crime.

Should start own business?

I am not writing this to garner pity, or even anger, I am looking for solutions. Since no one will hire me, I am considering starting my own business. I had thought before of starting up a non-profit to help prisoners with civil rights issues (sort of a service to screen prisoner cases and refer the deserving cases to attorneys willing to help and provide paralegal assistance), but I think I want to back-burner that idea in favor of a more pressing need. What about a staffing agency that employs ex-offenders?

Ex-offenders qualify to be bonded at no cost through the Federal Bonding Program (FBP). FBP bonds protect the employer for employee dishonesty. Employers receive the FBP bonds free-of-charge as an incentive to hire these applicants. Each FBP bond has a $5,000 limit with $0 deductible and covers the first six months of a selected individual’s employment. In addition, I could offset a portion of their salary through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. For each new ex-felon hired, the credit is 25% of qualified first-year wages for those employed at least 120 hours, or $1,500; and 40% for those employed 400 hours or more, or $2,400. With this credit, I could really save a lot of money on wages.

I would like some feedback on this idea? What obstacles does everyone see? Should it be a non-profit (and pay myself a salary), or traditional corporate setup? Would anyone be willing to invest (if for-profit) or donate (if non-profit)? For that matter, does anyone know of any promising job leads in the Baton Rouge or Hammond areas? I am looking to try to brainstorm a solution and work the problem.

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