View Full Version : The Felony Letter of Explanation

06-18-2009, 07:52 AM
In my work assisting former offenders looking for employment I have found that a well worded letter of explanation, submitted with an application, may open some opportunities.

A letter of explanation explains any gaps in your work history and addresses your criminal record.

Your letter should honestly state your record and time served. You need to take responsibility for your actions and acknowledge the effect it had on others. Talk about the way things have changed as well as what you have done since then. Close by mentioning incentive programs available to the employer if he or she chooses to hire you.

Here is a sample of a letter for someone recently released:

In May 2007 I was convicted of ______________________. I served 18 months at _________________ for my crime. I know that what I did was wrong. It was a result of poor decision making on my part and it hurt a lot of people. I’ve learned a great lesson and won’t repeat those past mistakes.

While incarcerated I worked as a ___________________ and I completed certifications in ___________________. Since my release I have done some part time work as ___________________ and volunteered my time at __________________. I am looking forward to getting back to work full-time so I can further demonstrate the changes in my life and be a responsible member of society.

I can understand why you may be hesitant to hire someone with my background. However, I am eligible for The Federal Bonding Program which can insure you against any act of dishonesty on my part. Additionally, if you hire me, you will be eligible for Work Opportunity Tax Credits to save you some money this year. I will be happy to provide you more information about those programs when we meet.

If your criminal record goes back several years and you have worked since your release, replace that second paragraph with one highlighting your newly established work history. Also, remove mention of the Tax Credits from the last paragraph as this only applies for ex-felons within a year of release.

Do not send this letter with every résumé submission. Provide the letter when you complete an application and check the box asking about your criminal record history. Bring it with you to review when you get invited in to an interview.

If you apply online there is usually an option to include any additional comments or attach a cover letter. Copy and paste your letter of explanation

Rosr Mary
06-18-2009, 08:07 AM
But what if you were wrongfully convicted?

06-19-2009, 12:06 PM
Good question. Remember that in the eyes of the general public, there is no such thing as a "wrongful conviction." Don't get mad at me! I'm just telling you how it is! If you start getting into something like, "Well, I was wrongfully convicted... They were just out to get me... etc," you're going to sound like a victim and that won't get you very far.

Even if you were "wrongfully convicted," the fact is you were convicted. You may not be able to (or need to) express much remorse in the explanation. You may still be able to say you had made some wrong decisions (i.e., you may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time or something that resulted in an arrest/conviction etc.) The main thing is to be straight up about the conviction and the time served, but focus attention on what has happened since that time and why the future looks better.

The letter of explanation can also help temper the person response when he does pull up your record. I'm working with a gentleman right now whose RAP sheet has him convicted for "sexual assault" and "indecent liberties with a minor." That conjures up all sorts of ideas! For all we know he could have raped an eight-year-old. What really happened? He was sleeping with his underage girlfriend... and since he was more than 4 years older than her it was a felony under these charges...

So, his letter of explanation says "I was convicted of having relations with my under aged girlfriend." Now, when the employer pulls up the record and sees "sexual assault" and "indecent liberties" he won't get any wrong ideas. Is this many likely to do this again? No... He is much older now and in a committed relationship (mentioned in the letter as well)... This will (hopefully) ease the mind of a potential employer as he takes a look at this guy...

06-21-2009, 04:55 PM
Thanks for these tips, im def gonna pass them along to my man because he is getting out very soon! thank you!

06-21-2009, 06:29 PM
My son comes home in four months.Is there places out there that do hire with a felony record?I have been toold that it wont be easy for him to find a Job or is there employer that do hire guys with a record like my son has?

06-22-2009, 07:42 AM
reneeru - It will be difficult, though not impossible, for him to find a job. A lot will depend on his level of education, skills, and network/support after he gets out.

There is no “list” of employers who hire ex-offenders. Even those who are “felon friendly” employers don’t want there names on a list for a variety of reasons. If you see a list floating around it is not “official” and may not contain accurate information.

The companies most likely to hire people with criminal records are those where the hiring decisions are made locally. The large companies where final hiring decisions are made at corporate headquarters often have a blanket “no felony” policy. He should focus on small, locally owned businesses—but don’t neglect the “big boys” because you never know!

The most effective way for anyone to find a job is through networking and informational interviewing. This is especially the case with former offenders. Encourage your son to develop a networking list. Look for workshops on networking being offered in your local area.

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06-22-2009, 12:27 PM
Great letter, for those that weren't wrongfully convicted.

Can't express much remorse for being wrongfully convicted? Hmmm.
I disagree. I live with constant remorse 24-7. Remorse that I didn't murder the SOB that got me arrested.

06-23-2009, 10:24 AM
cornered - I can understand that... but it may not be in your best interest to tell a potential employer that!!!

Remember that most employers perception of a offender/ex-offender is what they see in the media in the form of shows like Prison Break, ConAir, etc. That's not fair because most offenders don't fit that portrayal... Either that or your the perennial victim where everything and everyone is against you... In every letter you write, phone call you make, or interview you have you need to be trying to break that perception... Let them see that you are just an ordianry guy who made some bad decisions, suffered the consequences,learned a lesson, and you're ready to be a contributor to society...

06-25-2009, 12:20 AM
NOW you tell me! LOL! Already have, and you're right- it's not the best thing to say. But if they want the truth, they got it.

Because I have a disability and a record, the chances of me getting hired are a little bit less than zero. Decades, literally, of open discrimination because of my disability has made me calloused and intolerant of human stupidity.

06-27-2009, 07:06 AM
Thanks for the info

07-06-2009, 05:28 PM
The companies most likely to hire people with criminal records are those where the hiring decisions are made locally. The large companies where final hiring decisions are made at corporate headquarters often have a blanket “no felony” policy. He should focus on small, locally owned businesses—but don’t neglect the “big boys” because you never know!
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It is illegal to discriminate based on criminal record unless the crime is substantially related to the position. Unfortunately, most employers choose to break the law to keep former lawbreakers out of their company. Talk about irony!:rolleyes:

07-08-2009, 09:28 AM
DonfromWI - While its true "on paper" that they are not supposed to have a blanket "no hiring policy" its only an EEOC violation if it can be shown that it is having an "adverse effect on a protected class" which can be very difficult to prove - that's why they get away with it.

There is a movement afoot to have people with criminal records listed as a protected class, but I think tat will be quite an uphill battle. The best strategies I see are "an the box" initiative and a 7 year check back limit on criminal record checks.

07-09-2009, 01:22 AM
Actually NC, I understand from the employers standpoint on having the ability to decide if they hire or not. Sometimes you just have a gut feeling this guy ain't gonna work out.

What is needed more than anything is not more laws, but more education on who these people are when they get out, and help them make something of themselves. And lots of times the only help they need is someone to give them the chance.

If there was some kind of an educational program that could be offered to employers, or a bonus offered (like the Workforce Incentive Act for example), then employers would be more willing to learn.

Making restrictions and prohibitions is wrong, we need to open doors, not close them.

07-10-2009, 10:24 AM
Cornered - I agree... The bottom line for me has been getting employers to at least give ex-offenders a look... Most are not aware of existing incentive programs (Federal Bonding and Work Opportunity Tax Credits)... It's often up to the job seeker to learn how to use these as marketing tools...

Ultimately we have to remember that businesses exist to make money. They are not on missions of mercy or looking to give people a second chance. If a job-seeker can show that hiring him makes good business sense, then they will often provide the opportunity.

07-21-2009, 10:29 PM
Wow! thanx for all the info! this is very helpful and I will definetly pass it on to my husband who will be home soon. :thumbsup: