With the highest incarceration rate in the world, the U.S. releases more than 700,000 inmates each year, almost all of them barred from solid jobs because of their crimes.
The story of one of those individuals is highlighted in this story:
John Page knows this through bitter experience. A drug addiction and subsequent crimes led to eight years in a Seattle-area prison. Afterward, though welcomed home by friends, and sober, he found himself permanently marked by his past. Despite a college education, solid office experience and a lifelong ability to connect with people, Page, 46, discovered that the only work he could get upon release was an $8-per-hour job cleaning buses at night.
“It was horrible,” he said.
Even now, four years later, Page still feels the chill of incarceration. He winces to recall the day he was invited to meet the managers at a Seattle utility company. His preliminary tests had so impressed Human Resources that a job seemed assured, company staff said. Dressed for the interview, Page arrived to fill out the paperwork – checking “yes” when asked whether he had any criminal history. Immediately, the smiles and first-name familiarity vanished, as did the $35,000-a-year position. Page was left to cobble together a living through part-time contract work.
“It really hurt,” he said. “Yes, I was in prison, but that wasn’t all of my experience.”
A dignified man whose face sags at the memory of his addiction and subsequent crimes, Page has since rebuilt his life, working in the last four years at a car dealership, communications firm and civil rights organization. Next month, he starts as a program coordinator with Seattle’s Defender Association – his first full-time job with benefits since the 1990s.
Moving up from the low-income apartment that has been his home since release is Page’s next goal. But he stalls, paralyzed by the idea of filling out a rental application.
“You go into a leasing office and tell them ‘Yes, I have some stuff in my background, some robberies.’ They take your $35 application fee and then say they can’t take you in,” he said. “I don’t want the anxiety.”
Many believe this is just as it should be: Break the law and you must pay.