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Ex-offender

New Workshop!

Legal Barriers: learn how to overcome them. Offered every Monday at Workforce Development Center in Pewaukee.

Click here to see Flyer for more information.


This page has been designed for individuals who possess a criminal record, or have a history of criminal behavior that may affect their chances of finding employment. Employers have become increasingly concerned about knowing if an applicant has a criminal record. More employers are conducting pre-employment background checks for criminal records. The concern from the employer's point of view is that a person with a criminal past may have a propensity to re-offend in the future.

A person with a criminal record may face greater challenges in getting employment. There are certain jobs where an employer will justifiably not hire an ex-offender. However, challenging is not the same as impossible. The key is the right attitude and getting and keeping that first job, so that as time goes by, a person has developed a successful job history that outweighs past problems. It is very important to start by following four simple steps to help land your next job:

  • Understand your rights;
  • Seek professional assistance with your job search;
  • Honesty is the best policy- You can be fired for falsifying information, not for being an ex-offender;
  • Start to build your resume one step at a time, even if it’s not the “perfect” job.

7 Tips to assist offender’s in finding gainful employment:

1. Review Criminal Background Information:

  • Click here to search on the web for Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) to review your criminal background information for free. To receive a specific criminal record document(s) from a local County, visit your local police department. To download the State of Wisconsin criminal history record request form Click here. *A small fee may be charged to receive this document(s) from your local police department and/or State.

2. Job Applications:

  • Read the instructions and follow directions carefully.
  • Verify if the application asks for “felonies” or misdemeanors.
  • When asked if criminal record or drug abuse check- YES, and then under “Please explain write in: Wisconsin State Statute No. #### (the number of your conviction)
  • If you had a job in prison, list it under experience as: Employer: “Badger State Industries” (for Wisconsin jobs), and under salary list minimum wage.

3. Resumes:

  • Know that negative information is dangerous: Always remember that the purpose of your resume is to get a job interview. Your resume is not the place to confess your sins, accentuate your weaknesses, or lie about yourself. Make sure your resume is future-oriented and employer-centered. Use your resume to clearly communicate to employers what it is that you can do for them. Issues concerning your criminal record are best dealt with during the job interview.
  • Avoid the chronological format. This format, with its ordering of employers and dates, tends to point out the two major weaknesses of ex-offenders- limited work experience and major employment time gaps. Instead, choose a functional resume format or hybrid resume (combination) format that emphasizes your qualifications as they relate to the job you seek- skills, competencies and personal qualities.
  • Present your prison experience in non-prison terms: If you acquired education, training, and work experience in prison, be careful how you list that experience on your resume. Instead of saying that you worked at “Wisconsin State Prison,” say you worked for the “State of Wisconsin.” Both statements are truthful, but the first statement immediately raises a red flag that can prematurely screen you out before you get an interview.

4. Letter of Explanation:

  • A letter of explanation is simply an explanation of a person’s criminal history that includes accepting responsibility for choices, a discussion of lessons learned from past choices, and an opportunity to present yourself in a positive light and to not be defined by your past. It can be used when filling out a job application and will prepare you for how to verbally explain your history in an interview. After talking about it in an interview, an individual may choose to share it with a potential employer.
  • Click here to learn how a letter of explanation can help you get hired.

5. Interviewing:

  • If the employer likes your application, you will probably be called for an interview. You might have to talk about your criminal record in an interview. To get ready come prepared with an explanation (see letter of explanation above). If you think about and practice what you are going to say about your record before you go, you will be less nervous. Steer the conversation toward the positive.
  • If the interview starts getting into details of your criminal history, you can politely tell the interviewer you would rather focus on the good things you have done.
  • Focus on your life NOW .Your life now is what is important. Make the interviewer aware of why you want to move forward in life and how you plan to do it through working hard at a responsible job.
  • Stay relaxed to show confidence.
  • When you get to questions about your criminal record in an interview, try not to “freeze.”
  • If you are comfortable answering questions, your body language will show confidence. An employer may get nervous about hiring you if you look too nervous to answer the question.

6. Fidelity Bonding:

  • Fidelity Bonding is a business insurance policy that protects the employer in case of any loss of money or property due to employee dishonesty. It is like a "guarantee" to the employer that the person hired will be an honest worker.
  • The bond is given to the employer free-of-charge, and serves as an incentive to the company to hire a job applicant who is an ex-offender or has some other "risk" factor in their personal background. The employer is then able to get the worker’s skills without taking any risk of worker dishonesty on the job. Click here to learn more about the Fidelity Bonding Program.

7. Work Opportunity Tax Credit:

  • The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal income tax credit designed to help people gain on-the-job experience and acquire better employment. The WOTC program offers federal tax credits to employers as an incentive to hire people in several specific target groups.
  • WOTC applies only to new employees. The new employee must belong to one of the following nine target groups: TANF Recipients, Veterans, Disabled Veterans, Ex-Felons, Designated Community Residents, Vocational Rehabilitation Referrals, Summer Youth, Food Stamp Recipients, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Recipients, Long-term Family Assistance Recipients (LTFA). Click here to learn more about The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).

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