Jobs for Violent Offenders

Reentry into the community is a challenge for all ex-felons. Reentry is when ex-felons complete their sentences and prepare to return to society. One of the biggest challenges is finding a job. Not all employers are open to hiring someone with a felony on record. It can be especially challenging for violent offenders to find a job. Many states have laws that won’t allow violent ex-felons to work in certain fields.

Successful reentry is helpful to offenders and their community. Successful reentry increases public safety. Offenders are less likely to return to prison if they can find a job, housing, and healthcare. An ex-felon who reenters society can become a productive member of the community. Both individual and community receive the social and financial benefits of reentry.

Recently, more support programs for the reentry of violent offenders have emerged. These programs are a resource to violent offenders seeking a job. A violent offender can find a job if they know where to look and how to approach the application process.

What Is a Violent Crime?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a violent crime is a felony that involves force or threat of force towards a person. This differs from nonviolent crimes in a few ways. Nonviolent crimes do not involve force or injury of another person. An example of nonviolent crimes are property crimes like arson or theft.

Violent crimes involve actual or threatened harm of a person. Examples of violent crimes are assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Violent crimes generally have longer and more severe sentences than nonviolent crimes.

Career Options for Violent Offenders

Violent offenses decrease a felon’s chances of working in careers that need licensing. Many jobs expect a background check that is clean of violent crime. Violent offenders are unlikely to get jobs that involve direct interaction with customers. Examples include becoming a doctor, nurse, dentist, or teacher. Employers are hesitant to hire anyone who might pose a risk to their customers. This may be frustrating for ex-felons who have moved on from their past. Still, there are many fields that are willing to open their door to violent offenders.

Possible career options for violent offenders include trades and food service. Online jobs and self-employment are other options. Example careers are listed below. Associated education requirements and job pay are included (as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Automotive mechanic

Typical education requirements: Trade school. Certification is usually required.

Average hourly pay: $21.02

Carpenter / woodworker

Typical education requirements: Apprenticeship.

Average hourly pay: $24.58

Construction laborer

Typical education requirements: None / on-the-job training.

Average hourly pay: $18.70


Typical education requirements: None / on-the-job training or culinary school.

Average hourly pay: $12.12


Typical education requirements: Apprenticeship or trade school.

License may be required. Average hourly pay: $28.46

Film / video editor

Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree.

Average hourly pay: $28.36

Graphic designer

Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree.

Average hourly pay: $26.29

HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) technician

Typical education requirements: Apprenticeship or trade school.

License may be required. Average hourly pay: $24.12

IT Computer Support Specialist

Typical education requirements: Associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree.

Average hourly pay: $26.46

Mechanical engineer

Typical education requirements: Associate’s degree.

Average hourly pay: $44.62


Typical education requirements: None / on-the-job training.

Average hourly pay: $18.72


Typical education requirements: Apprenticeship or trade school.

Average hourly pay: $27.96

Truck driver

Typical education requirements: CDL (commercial driver’s license) training.

Average hourly pay: $21.91

Web designer / developer

Typical education requirements: None (though a certificate helps).

Average hourly pay: $34.69


Typical education requirements: Trade school or college degree, and on-the-job training.

Average hourly pay: $21.33


Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree or freelance experience.

Average hourly pay: $29.89

Where to Look for a Job

There are a lot of places a violent offender can go to find a job. Temp agencies, online job boards, creating a freelance business, and networking are all ways to get started in a new career.

Temp agency – Ex-felons might consider applying for a job at a temp agency. Temp agencies are always looking for new applicants. They often have positions available that don’t need a background check.

Online job boards – Online job boards list a variety of opportunities. They include work-from-home jobs that often do not need background checks at all. Online job boards offer opportunities to get started in both freelance and online work. Some examples of online job boards include Upwork, Freelancer, and Craigslist.

Freelance work – Becoming a freelancer is a great way to start working immediately. Working for small businesses or individuals is less likely to involve a background check. New freelance business owners can take advantage of online job boards. This allows them to get the word out about their services.

Networking – When looking for work, an ex-felon can keep in mind their social network. People are more likely to hire someone they know or trust. It can help when friends and family put in a good word.

Applying for a Job

Employers are looking to hire people they can trust. It’s important to be honest about your criminal record in the application process. To help build trust, give an honest to interview questions about criminal record.

Mouly Aloumouati of VASAVOR (Virginia’s Serious and Violent Offender Reentry) suggests the following approach: “Spend 10 seconds explaining your record in an interview, then… spend 10 minutes telling the employer that you can do for him.”

The University of Colorado offers a great guide on how to interview with a felony conviction. They suggest using “the 3 R’s”: Responsibility, Regret, and Redemption. Let the interviewer know you understand your mistakes. Then talk about how you have learned from them. Explain the efforts you made to better yourself. Share any experiences that show positive growth. Talk about your skills and strengths that will benefit the company. Mention any work or education experiences.

Other Options – Expungement

Expungement is generally not an option for violent offenders. Expungement involves destroying a criminal record. This means a felony conviction is no longer available to public. This allows any background checks to show up clean. In most cases expungement is only possible for misdemeanors or minor felonies. Most states do not offer expungement for serious offenses. Michigan is the only state that will expunge some violent offenses. Michigan recently passed a new bill that allows expungement of some violent offenses.

Other Options – Reentry Organizations

Reentry organizations may be useful for violent offenders. Reentry organizations help offenders transition back to society. They offer many resources, including help with finding employment. They help offenders become productive members of the community. They usually start working with felons in prison. Then they guide them through the process of adapting to normal life. Below are two options for reentry organizations.

Volunteers of America

Volunteers of America has a Correctional Reentry Service. They offer halfway housing, rehabilitation programs, and residential substance abuse treatment. They also offer education and life skills training and help find work. Visit their website to see if local services are available.


SVORI is The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative. It is a federally funded organization. Violent offenders often face more challenges than other offenders. For this reason, they focus on helping offenders with serious or violent crimes. SVORI’s goals are to help offenders improve quality of life, self-sufficiency, and health. They help to reduce the chances of reoffending. SVORI offers case management and help with finding a place to live and a job. They also offer healthcare, including addiction treatment, and mental and physical care.

Recent studies show that reentry organizations can benefit offenders. Drug treatments may decrease the chances of recidivism. Education and training programs lead to better skills and employment. Offenders who stay in halfway houses are less likely to commit crimes. It may be worthwhile for violent offenders to look into reentry programs.


Violent offenders may face a lot of hurdles when returning to society. A violent offense involves force or threat of force towards another person. For this reason, employers may be hesitant to hire people with violent histories. There are laws that make it hard for violent offenders to qualify for certain jobs or licenses.

The truth is there are a lot of job options available if an offender knows where to look. Violent offenders are more likely to work in jobs that don’t require direct interaction with customers. They are also more likely to work in jobs that don’t require licensing. Trades, food service, online jobs, and freelance work are possibilities for violent offenders. Online job boards, temp agencies, and networking are great places to look for jobs. Reentry organizations are an option for offenders seeking guidance through the reentry process.

A violent offender should come to an interview ready to answer questions about their criminal record. An employer wants to hire someone they can trust. It’s helpful when an offender takes responsibility for their mistakes. An offender who shows they have learned from their past and committed to change is more likely to be hired.

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