Member Request for Help on Career Pathways After a Conviction

Recently, a member of our community reached out for support on career pathway options for individuals with a professional background, who have faced criminal conviction charges, and are trying to navigate a new career path. I was surprised, once again, by the diverse population of adult learners we have in our midst in the LINCS community. I confessed that I wasn’t familiar with programs that offer advice for individuals in his situation. However, I suggested that our community members have a wealth of knowledge, and I could share his story anonymously, to see what you may be able to suggest. 

 Below is his story. I encourage you to read it, and post any comments you may have in this thread. He will read them here.  I’m sure they will be a support for him, as he moves forward.


Mike Cruse

After receiving my MBA, I started work at an an asset management division, where I ended up remaining employed for the next seventeen years. I wish I could say that was the end of my downs and my story.The job was an interesting and amazing opportunity for a newly minted MBA. The strategy was to invest in a non mainstream market; to seek out and exploit inefficient markets. This involved buying defaulted property taxes from municipalities. When property owners did not pay their taxes, local governments were left with iou's instead of the required cash needed for their budgets. Our cash inflows to the jurisdictions from acquiring their iou's funded police and fire departments and helped fill school system shortfalls. When the property owner eventually replaid the delinquency (along with interest), our investment was repaid.

We first tested out the concept that I had presented during my job interview; my next step was to develop a business plan to raise capital and develop strategic partners. The asset earning rates were high because there were few participants in the market. The existing participants had agreed to not compete with each other to keep the returns high. In turn, our investors who wanted a good risk adjusted returns were provided with same, by our actions. My boss wanted me to participate in the market and not change it. I respected my boss; he was self made an brilliant. He was very charismatic. He was twenty years older than me and very successful. He had become like a father figure and I would have done just about anything to please him. We built a very successful business and expanded beyond NJ, our initial investment state, into 20 other jurisdictions. I learned to scale businesses and build an infrastructure.

Over time, I got promoted to Vice President had a staff of eight people who reported to me directly and over 100 subcontractor who worked indirectly for me. I thought we were doing a great deal of good. In retrospect, I should have questioned some of our bidding methods, should have insisted on better infrastructure and should be developed polices and procedures rather than operating so informally as was the practice of the firm.

Seventeen years later while still employed by the same firm, the Department of Justice charged me and other major payers in the inductry with violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. This Act was enacted in the early 20th century to address monopolies like Standard Oil. I could either go to trial and or plead guilty and hopefully receive probation. Facing a possible 10 year potential federal prison sentence, I chose the latter. I took responsibility for my actions, paid the fines imposed by goverment and looked to a future that now had some challenges that required intestinal fortitude. 

I have a two special needs children. My wife is a social work for the local government and has been thrust in the role of primary breadwinner for our family despite her modest pay. Where once, I was pursued by other employers eager to talk to me about employment opportunities, I have had to scramble for consulting jobs as I seek full-time work. My conviction precludes from some regulated firms from looking at me. My prior earning history scares some employers.  

I am working to create a second chance and hoping my story elicits someone to give me a chance. I can help solve a variety of issues. I remain optimistic as it only takes one opportunity where an employer says "yes" let's take a chance. I am flexible and adaptable. I have grown-up a lot and still have much to offer. Thanks for reading my story. I have had my ups and downs. I truly believe up is around the corner.


(1) If he hasn't already done so, this gentleman might reach out to the prisoner re-entry support networks within his state, to explore whether and how they might help him secure a position that matches his expertise and motivations.  (2) There are many adult education and social service organizations that might be willing and able to hire him.  (He presumably could be of great help developing funding proposals and possibly providing guidance to clients who face similar challenges. )  If he shared which state he lives in (and possibly the region or county of that state), maybe one or more LINCS members might have more-specific suggestions for him.  (3) This gentleman's situation is unfortunately not unique.  There are tremendous numbers of men and women in the U.S. who have criminal records which make it very difficult to not only find a job but (depending on the state) to get a driver's license, find suitable housing, re-connect with family members, vote, and otherwise re-integrate in positive ways into their communities. (Listen to the "Hidden Potential" episode on "The TED Radio Hour" for a segment about a man convicted of a "white-collar " crime who faced similar challenges.)  As was noted a few weeks ago in a post in LINCS' "Correctional Ed" discussion group, this issue has particularly impacted African Americans.  (4) Helping former inmates overcome these obstacles and transition to a new and better life is one of the biggest social, economic, and public safety challenges our nation faces.  (5) Adult education has been shown to have great potential to be part of the solution. (Most adult basic education providers serve people with criminal records as a normal aspect of their service to the community.  In some cases, adult educators create special programs for current inmates or recently-released former inmates, in collaboration with correctional agencies.)  But to do this work well, adult education agencies need appropriate supports to allow them to hire and train staff, use relevant curricula, and collaborate with other agencies. (6) We wish this gentleman and his family well.  Maybe he can share with us his experience as he moves forward, so LINCS members can learn from his experience and offer suggestions.                                                                   Paul Jurmo                                                                      

I am an Education  Supervisor at a male correctional facility in Florida.  We have a 100 hour re-entry program that not only are we required to teach by policy and procedure, but also by Florida law.  In the program, we require an explanation of criminal history to go along with a resume.  It seems simple, but we have numerous students or other inmates releasing that have explanations to circumstances that are not black and white.  While it may not help completely, if he attached it to go along with reference letters and resumes, it could help, especially if one of the reference letters is from his federal probation officer.  There are also employment specialists with the state and the federal government to help people like this gentleman for once they release and afterwards.  He might be able to call the local federal or state facility and ask to speak with the resource officer or employment officer/specialist for more pointed advice.

Thank you, Meredith and Paul, for sharing your experience with us.  I wonder if you have any samples of the curriculum from Florida, or other materials that have been used with soon-to-be, or recently, released individuals?  It would be great to see models of these types of letters, and requests.  If none exists in the public domain, I wonder whether that is something that we could model here, for the benefit of this member, and others who may be working with learners in a similar situation?


Mike Cruse