Why Criminals Go Back to Jail Again and Again

car window brokenThis is a comment I got for my post, Tips From a Former Car Thief on How To Protect Your Car:

“I just had my car broken into tonight. I appreciate you wanting to give back to society and that you still feel bad about what you did. However, what you did can never be erased from history. What you say now or do now will not change what you have done or the effect you have had on other people. Once a thief, always a thief.”

If you just got your car broken into, I understand being pissed about it—I can’t fault the guy for that. That last part though, “once a thief, always a thief” is what I want to talk about.

Once a Thief…

I haven’t told the story yet of how I actually became a convicted felon. But for now, I’ll say that I was caught doing something, I was (correctly) found guilty, and I served my time.

Once I served my short time in prison, I was ready to get a job and turn my life around. That’s not uncommon actually, a lot of dudes in prison want to turn their lives around.

ToolsAlways a Thief?

So I got out of prison and looked for a job where I could use the skills I had. Carpentry jobs, mechanic jobs, oil-change jobs… no one would hire me. Because no one wants to hire a convicted felon.

That happens almost always to convicted felons. You get out of the clinker and can’t get a job because all job applications ask to do a background check. If you check “yes,” then they see you’re a felon, if you check “no,” then they figure you’re a felon. Either way, you don’t get the job.

The Two Options

Like we all know, most felons end up back in prison. You can’t turn your life around if you’re not allowed to turn your life around because you can’t find a job. So criminals go back to criminal activity. At some point, you only have two options:

  1. Starve or freeze to death because no one will give you a job
  2. Go back to stealing/criminal stuff so that you can afford to eat and have a place to stay

Those aren’t great options. If people refuse to hire felons, then they leave felons no choice—they gotta go back to crime to survive.

Pitched roof jobSo Then How Do You Get Your Life Turned Around?

Luck. I happened to have two uncles who both taught me trades and gave me jobs. One uncle taught me welding and one taught me carpentry. My one uncle gave me a welding job when I was fresh out of prison. The other uncle gave me a carpentry job years later.

Those skills and jobs gave me a few years of having a clean record. And I was able to get into unions. I still have problems getting new jobs, even though I’ve been clean and employed for over 10 years—it’s always the background check problem. In fact, within the company I work for now sometimes we have jobs at federal buildings and I’m not allowed to do the job because I’m a convicted felon.

A lot of felons don’t have the luck I had of having two uncles who gave me a second chance and a job in the trades.

Once a Thief, Always a Thief—It Depends

Not in my case. I work a regular job and haven’t committed any crimes since my conviction. I got myself turned around. But in many dudes’ cases, it’s a true statement. You can’t reform yourself if you get shot down on every job application you put out there.

Image credit: car window


Why Criminals Go Back to Jail Again and Again — 10 Comments

  1. You are very lucky you had people to help you get back on your feet. That helped put you – and keep you – on the straight and narrow. That’s definitely not the case for everyone. That’s why it’s so important to keep a clean slate in your younger years. Some of the bad choices we make early on haunt us for life. I ‘preach’ this to my daughters!
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    • I’m very lucky! My family has always been there for me, even when I didn’t really deserve it. I think a lot of other felons don’t have that and so they don’t get a hand up when they mess up royally, like I did.

      Even with my “hand up,” my bad choices still haunt me. I’m employed but I still miss out on lots of little things that you wouldn’t think of. Like taking my girls to the White House for a tour. I was rejected for the tour because of my background. Those dumb little things will probably keep coming up for my whole life, man. HOpefully your girls listen to you when you teach them about bad decisions haunting their lives forever!

    • That’s definitely true. Guess it depends on why someone is doing criminal stuff. if they’re doing it to survive, they’ll end up going back to it unless they get a hand up. If they’re doing it to be cool, then they probably will stop after having the consequence fall on them like a hammer!

  2. Yup.

    In Arizona, if they put you on probation after release from prison, they make you pay for the probation officer’s time! No pay: back to the slam. And since most recently released felons can’t get a job…well. Big money for the private prison industry, eh?

    A friend’s son was convicted for diddling a girl who was THREE DAYS under the age of consent. He not only ended up in jail, if and when they release him he will be on probation for the rest of his life. As a “sex offender,” he won’t have a snowball’s chance of getting a job. His mother will pay the probation expenses for as long as she lives…but after she’s gone, then what?
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    • WOW. Those are 2 great examples of the problem! Sometimes it’s like the system is set up for felons to fail and end up back in the clink.

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  4. Wow…”Once a thief, always a thief?” Pretty harsh. I’m glad the commenter never made any stupid mistakes in their youth. Good for you for turning your life around and for now helping others with your blog.

  5. I`m a violent felon who never hurt or touched anyone. Ive been out 4 years and cant find a job or a place to live. ive been living in my car in north east ohio since the day i got out. Ive been sited for trespassing twice for sleeping in parking lots. Im told i cant expunge my ONE FELONY 5 because im violent without being violent, while criminals who got many more years then the ONE that i got, can expunge without a problem. So Ive been forced to scream handicap and disabled due to mental issues that cant be disproven. …..There’s nothing wrong with me. I would love to work. Im just not aloud. so rather then commit some crime to feed myself, this is all i can come up with. Ive applied for every last bit if government (taxpayer) help i possibly can because i simply am not aloud to live a normal life. Im really a good person who has every intention of turning it around, but cant because i’ve been branded for life. I contiplate jumping off a bridge every day. I cant believe i havnt done it yet. Any suggestions please??

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