Assistance For Ex-Felons

helpAssistance for ex felons is necessary because of the lack of support and resources they often encounter when leaving prison. Information on convicted felons programs is available from a variety of places including local social service agencies. However, there are also resources such as how to find felon friendly employers that you can access online.

Federal Government

The government provides assistance for ex felons through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program (WOTC). The purpose of WOTC is to encourage employers to hire workers from populations that have a difficult time finding jobs. For example, veterans, SNAP recipients, and individuals involved in vocational rehabilitation are all served by WOTC.

Employers must hire an ex felon within one year of their release in order to meet guidelines. The U.S. Department of Labor provides the appropriate forms. In turn, employers receive a tax break for that year. The maximum received per employee is $2,400.

Individuals researching how to find felon friendly employers can also take advantage of the Federal Bonding Program. It is insurance from the federal government to protect employers who hire at-risk job seekers such as ex felons. It encourages employers to take a chance with a population they may otherwise ignore.

U.S. Dept. of Labor – Employment Information Handbook for Ex-Offenders includes numerous tips for finding which employers hire convicted felons as well as information on convicted felons programs. Assistance for ex felons also includes information on the following:

  • Housing
  • Food Stamps
  • Medical Care
  • Child Support
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Domestic Violence

Tips for finding which employers hire convicted felons in the handbook include asking friends and family members for assistance and looking up businesses in the yellow pages. The guide suggests cold-calling the businesses to ask them if they are hiring, saying this has a 69% success rate.

State Programs

Individual states can have their own employer incentive programs. San Francisco instituted a program that allowed a business to deduct $10000 from payroll taxes for providing assistance for ex felons through employment. Philadelphia created a similar program in 2008.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The Small Business Administration (SBA) assists individuals in starting their own business. They provide training programs, loans, and other resources to make the transition smooth. There is some confusion surrounding SBA policies in regard to approving loans for ex felons.  The SBA is open to hiring individuals released from prison but many ex felons complain that they are unable to get financing. It is quite possible that the reasons they are denied funding have nothing to do with their ex-convict status. It is worth investigating.

The Second Chance Act (SCA)

The Second Chance Act was instituted to provide assistance for ex felons in the areas of employment, substance abuse, housing, and mental health therapy. The focus of the SCA is to prevent former prisoners from returning to prison because of needs that aren’t adequately met in these areas. Grants are awarded to state and local governments to fund the assistance programs.

For those individuals searching for how to find felony friendly employers, the first step is to check with your state’s Department of Public Safety’s Office of Research and Planning/Office of Transition Services office. In North Carolina, the DPS has a county resource guide that includes information for how to find felony friendly employers along with a list of potential employers.

Tips for Finding Which Employers Hire Convicted Felons

  1. Begin looking for information on convicted felons programs before you are released. Check resources at your correctional facility. Do they offer resume writing assistance? Can they assist you with restoring your drivers’ license and getting a copy of your birth certificate and social security card? You will probably need these for employment. 
  2. Be prepared for the tough questions you will be asked during interviews. Don’t feel ashamed- you have served your time and you are trying to get back on your feet. Display confidence about your situation going forward. Be honest! 
  3. Do you have a talent that will enable you to find work as a freelancer? It can be a good way to find employment without a background check. There are freelancing jobs in many industries if you have any of the following skills: writing, web design, marketing, research, sales.

Many individuals who consider self-employment after incarceration ask, “Can felons be licensed for massage therapy?” The laws vary depending upon the state where you wish to be certified and the nature of your crime. If you can get your record expunged it can be very helpful. Check with the Legal Aid program in your area to determine whether an attorney will work with you pro bono (without pay) to get your record expunged.

Another common question is “Can a convicted felon become a medical doctor?” While it is possible to become trained as a medical doctor, the only way you can prescribe medicine is to get a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) certificate of registration. It may be difficult to obtain one depending on the reason for your crime and whether it was a misdemeanor or felony conviction.

Check out these resources and find out how to get assistance for ex felons in your state. There are numerous programs available to help you assimilate back into the community.


  1. Terry Stogdill says:

    I am an exfelon I got out of prison December 15 2014,I am staying with my sister temporary and I would like to know what is the best way for me to get some help with medical, housing, money,transportation, because with out some kind of help I would be better off back in prison and the state can take care of me.

    • Terry Stogdill,
      Since you have been in prison you qualify for SNAP Benefits (food stamps in the form of a plastic debit card), Medicaid for all of your medical issues, and probably Public Assistance (money for rent and to live on). Apply at your local County Office Building (these are state and federal benefits largely handled by local government offices).
      Don’t know what state you’re in but in New York State you can go to the website for more information. If you’re not a NY State resident you likely have a similar website.
      Good luck and remember, persistence overcomes resistance. Hang in there and stay out of trouble.
      Best wishes,

  2. Robbi Boswell says:

    i am trying to open a cleaning company and i need to know how to get bonded and insured bc i am an ex felon and also just released from prision aug 26 2014 was down for two years i duno what to do to get assistance for my company and insurance?

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