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Three Strategies for Post-Incarceration Success: Embracing Second Chances

Three Strategies for Post-Incarceration Success: Embracing Second Chances

Reintegration after incarceration is like navigating through a dense fog—you know there's clear sky on the other side, but the path isn't always visible. One significant challenge is handling background checks, a tool often used by employers and clients to assess new acquaintances. Here, we delve into three strategies to address this hurdle and seize control of your narrative: anonymity, reactiveness, and proactiveness.  This leads to the inevitable question - how do I talk about my background.  Now - there are certain ban the box rules that offer some legal rights.  We will discuss those another day.  Being an independent contractor of having your own business doesn't afford those protections anyway.  So we are going into three ways to address your backround. 

The Veil of Anonymity

For some - especially those that will own their own business, the anonymity route can be a shield, allowing the creation of a professional persona separate from personal history. This strategy involves using an alias (a different name - so long as you are legally allowed to use one) or a business name different from your legal identity, paired with alternative contact information, such as a new email address or a Google Voice number. Today's background checks are cheap, can be run off of minimal information about you, and are entirely legal as part of a vendor selection process (we'll discuss employment rules on another day).  It's a method to minimize digital footprints and a conscious decision to sidestep the past's shadow.  So, if you're John Smith - it's a little hard to run a background check on you.  And yeah - it would require you to have a business name other than your legal name.  For sure - common nicknames such as Josh for Joshua will not shield your identity.  For example, if I introduced myself as Josh instead of Joshua, checking my background will still reveal my identity. 

The Reactive Path

Then there's the reactive approach, which is essentially a "business as usual" stance. It operates on the premise that most people won't bother with background checks. This path requires preparedness for the occasional disclosure conversation but relies on time as an ally—the more distant the incarceration, the less its relevance. However, the industry matters; for example, care services are more stringent than landscaping. Reactiveness means handling issues if and when they arise, but it's not without risks.  This approach is probably the most common.  It's basically - the "I'll deal with it if it comes up..."

Proactive Transparency

Proactivity, on the other hand, involves leading with your history, owning your narrative, and confronting the stigma head-on. It's about embracing the term "felon" not as a label, but as a part of your journey, immediately laid bare to avoid future surprises. This approach can be empowering and disarm the power of a background check, but it's not without challenges, particularly in fields like accounting or finance, where trust is paramount. This approach would look like - yeah - I've had a run in with the law but no one will work harder for you because I need this opportunity more than the next person. Setting aside ban the box rules - this approach is nice in that some employers can figure a way around or just ignore the ban the box rules.  This approach lays your cards on the table.  I made a mistake; we all have.  By disclosing early, it shows an enormous amount of integrity to say - yup - I'll tell you about all my warts on the front end.  In fact, I'll bring this level of integrity when we work together.  This level of integrity is a very clear signal that says, I have set a new course for myself and often times clients, customers, and employers are more receptive to it because of your transparency.  

Legal Avenues: Expungements and Pardons

Expungements and pardons can sometimes clear one's record, although not always completely. At present, search engines can retain higher profile cases in its search results and you may to do some work on image rehab - but we'll cover that another day.  For sure, take advantage of the expungements and pardons where possible - there is only upside there.  

Ultimately - the right approach is situational. In some circumstances, you may want to disclose. In others, you may want to wait it out. But let's remember making a mistake does not define who you are. It's not necessary to introduce yourself as "Hi...I'm Josh and I'm a felon."  But having a strategy, no matter which you choose, means that you'll confidently address your clients or prospective employers with the knowledge that your darkest days are behind you.

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