Female inmates face many unique challenges, even most view the facilities that house them as better than their male counterparts.
While it’s true that female facilities have less violence, it is a terrible places to be.
Women with felony convictions get less support from families than men, with many having traumatic pasts.
This lack of support often leads to an increase in repeat offenders – over 58% get re-convicted.
Research says 70% of female inmates suffer from drug addictions.
Some of those women will never recover.
For those who have made it out of incarceration, there are programs to keep you out.
Finding employment, housing, and support is a crucial step.
Organizations and Programs to Help Felons
It can be challenging to find help for female felons, with less medical assistance and educational programming for female offenders, with most resources going to men.
However, there are still programs for previously convicted women.
The Correctional Facility
While there may be fewer resources for female felons, this doesn’t mean they do not exist.
You can look to your correctional facility for help after release.
Some facilities offer to fund ex-convicts.
Both of these operate on the West coast.
Female-specific programs include LEAP, operating in Florida.
There are programs that you have access to while incarcerated.
These include education, life skills, parenting, and technology classes.
There are even programs to assist your children while incarcerated.
Inmates to Entrepreneurs
Inmates to Entrepreneurs helps both men and women gain access to the education needed to start their businesses.
It’s difficult to find employment with a felony conviction attached to your name – if you start your own business, you do not have to deal with that stigma.
The program helps you with many aspects of forming a business, including:
- What kind of business do you want to start
- Getting your first customer
- Customer service
Your Local Community
Sometimes, help is as close as your neighborhood.
Many programs are locally based.
Community-based resources include:
- Church-funded assistance
- State or city economic agencies
- Privately-funded assistance
To find more information on community-based help, visit your state or county offices or websites.
Many community-based programs focus on reentry for those previously incarcerated.
Reentry programs help with all aspects of reentering society, rather than just focusing on employment or education.
The programs not only help ex-convicts become more productive, but they also make their communities safer place.
Felony Record Hub is a great resource for male or female ex-inmates.
The site offers resources on many different topics, including:
- Finding jobs
- Legal help
- Your rights as a convicted felon
- Educational and vocational programs
- Finding community assistance
The website was founded in 2014 to help former inmates find employment.
Finding a job on the website is easy – just put in the type of job you want and your location, which will give you a list of felon-friendly jobs.
They also host a job board with employers posting job opportunities.
There are more than just employment resources on the site.
They make finding housing easier, including information on section 8, felon-friendly landlords, and more.
Programs That Help Felons Find Employment
Studies show that finding employment reduces recidivism – another word for repeat offenders.
Finding a job after being incarcerated is the first step in staying out.
It opens the door to better housing, less stress, and more.
Federal Employer Incentive Programs
While former inmates can receive government aid such as grants, the federal government also offers incentives to employers.
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) does just that.
WOTC gives employers tax breaks when they hire employees from target groups that face discrimination in the workforce.
The target groups include former inmates.
WOTC gives you more opportunities to find employment, even if indirectly.
Movements to Help Felons Get Jobs
Many employers are hesitant to hire felons.
Without assistance, many convicts have a difficult time obtaining employment.
However, there may be more resources than you think, including government or privately funded programs.
As far as federal programs, there is the Federal Bonding Program.
A bond is like insurance, protecting employers if they become victims of theft or fraud.
There is a stigma against ex-felons; this is another program to encourage employers to hire them.
There is also the Ban-the-Box movement.
This movement focuses on getting criminal record questions off applications.
It’s taken hold in over half the states in the US so far.
Many big companies have signed the Fair Chance Pledge, another movement focused on removing criminal record questions from applications.
These companies include:
- Cornell University
- Tyson Foods
Tips for Felons Looking for a Job
There are jobs available for ex-convicts, you just have to know where to look.
There are plenty of felon-friendly tips and tricks online.
Like with anyone finding a job, choose what you want to do.
Do you want a full-time or part-time job?
What fields interest you?
Do a job search through a felon-friendly database.
Find something new, something that separates you from your past.
You may have an easier time at smaller businesses than at large corporations.
Small, family-run businesses may be easier to communicate with.
Be prepared for your interview.
There’s a good chance they will run a background check on you before the interview.
Use the interview as an opportunity to be open and honest – vouch for yourself and your side of the story.
Additionally, look into having your record expunged.
In other words, most potential employers will not have access to your criminal history.
Grants for Felons
From government to privately funded, there are a variety of business grants available for inmates of any gender.
Additionally, there are grants designed just for female offenders.
Grants are like loans that you do not have to pay back.
You have to apply for them like a loan, and meet certain requirements.
Grants are mostly need-based, with lower-income individuals getting access first.
US Small Business Administration Grants (SBA)
The Office of Women’s Business Ownership, or OWBO, is an SBA-backed program that started in 1979.
They help with a variety of business-related topics, including:
- Business training
- Federal Contracts
- Counseling services
- Finance training
- Internet literacy
Similar to Inmates to Entrepreneurs, OWBO helps women start and maintain their businesses.
This eliminates the stress of finding a felon-friendly employer.
Starting your small business also helps your community grow.
Women who take advantage of this program have a greater chance of running a successful business than those who do not participate.
State Government Grants
The federal government isn’t the only resource you have to obtain a business grant.
All states have some kind of funding program for felons, including education, housing, and business.
You can find grants for each state easily online.
You can turn to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for housing needs.
Additionally, there are transitional housing programs in most states.
Most small business grants are administered through the state government to foster economic growth.
Local Government Grants
Every state, and even some counties and cities, offers grants to ex-felons to assist in reentry.
A popular program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides a monthly cash grant for felons.
This grant can be applied to different living expenses, including:
- Rent and utilities
Some local grants require your participation in a work program.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is another popular grant, especially for female felons and their kids.
This program – also called food stamps – is given monthly for food expenses.
Pell Grants for Education
Pell Grants are a federal program designed to give aid to students.
These grants, like most others, are based on your needs.
The less income you have, the more you’re likely to get.
While you cannot be awarded a Pell Grant if you’re currently incarcerated, ex-convicts are eligible.
This grant is awarded to undergraduate students – those obtaining an associate’s, a bachelor’s, or attending a trade school.
Like all grants, a Pell Grant does not have to be repaid.
To apply for a Pell Grant, fill out a FAFSA application.
The earlier you apply, the more money you may get.
GoFundMe is a platform for raising money – from medical bills to help between jobs, people create GoFundMe campaigns for many reasons.
It’s easy to start a GoFundMe, but harder to collect money.
GoFundMe works off people’s donations.
If you or someone close to you doesn’t have a huge friend base or following on social media, this may not be your best bet.
This doesn’t mean giving up on it! GoFundMe can be a valuable resource if you sell yourself well enough on the site.
Kickstarter is similar to GoFundMe, functioning on donations.
Kickstarter is geared more toward selling a product.
This can be a great way to, for lack of better words, kickstart your business venture.
If you have a specific product to sell, such as art, a new piece of technology, or even a board game, Kickstarter can be a great tool.
With a Kickstarter, backers only pay if you reach your goal.
So, pick an attainable goal or you won’t be getting the money.
These crowdfunding sites are a low-risk option to take.
They’re also many ex-felons only options when they don’t qualify for traditional financings such as loans and grants.
Federal Loans and Grants
Here is some information about the grants and federal loans available.
Along with SBA grants, you can also get small business loans.
Loans, unlike grants, do have to be paid back, usually with interest.
A criminal record or even poor credit scores won’t always bar you from federal loans.
There are also federal loans for education.
Typically applications are done through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program.
There are loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
The most common federal grants are administered through educational institutions and nonprofits.
The Second Chance Act Community-Based Reentry Program is one of the only federal grant programs targeted toward inmates.
It’s run by the Department of Justice.
Funds under this program are used for those currently incarcerated.
They assist in reentry once out of prison.
At the End of the Day
Reentering society after incarceration is a difficult task.
Many ex-felons are reconvicted within three years of release.
However, there are proven ways to prevent this.
Obtaining a quality education and finding a safe job are the most important steps.
A good job allows you to live in safer communities and keeps you from returning to certain unlawful behaviors.
It will also reduce your stress – another important step in staying free.
Over-stressed people don’t always make the best decisions.
With many of these programs, you can start before you’re released.
Take the first step as early as you can – the rest will be that much easier.