I won't drive a truck anymore." - Steve Earle
Over the weekend I discussed the difficulties for convicts finding employment, so I should mention at least one employer who's hiring more ex-felons than ever: The US military. That's the upside for ex-felons; the downside is they'll probably train you for a few months then ship your ass off to Iraq.
They're spending more than ever on marketing for every new recruit and still coming up short, so the Army has expanded its prospective labor pool. Notes the San Francisco Chronicle ("US is recruiting misfits for army," Oct. 1).
In February, the Baltimore Sun wrote that there was "a significant increase in the number of recruits with what the Army terms 'serious criminal misconduct' in their background" -- a category that included "aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats." From 2004 to 2005, the number of those recruits rose by more than 54 percent, while alcohol and illegal drug waivers, reversing a four-year decline, increased by more than 13 percent.I don't actually mind expanding military recruitment to low-level felons; in fact I think it's a good idea. Military discipline might be a good cure for what ails many ex-offenders - they would receive focused training in discipline instead of just punishment for its lack. If the military could offer record expungement, I bet it'd get a lot more takers.
In June, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that, under pressure to fill the ranks, the Army had been allowing into its ranks increasing numbers of "recruits convicted of misdemeanor crimes, according to experts and military records." In fact, as the military's own data indicated, "the percentage of recruits entering the Army with waivers for misdemeanors and medical problems has more than doubled since 2001." ...
the Houston Chronicle reported in August that Army recruiters were trolling around the outskirts of a Dallas-area job fair for ex-convicts.
"We're looking for high school graduates with no more than one felony on their record," one recruiter said.
The author of the SF Chronicle piece worries that as a result of the expanded labor pool, "a new all-volunteer generation of UUUU's may emerge -- the underachieving, unable, unexceptional, unintelligent, unsound, unhinged, unacceptable, unhealthy, undesirable, unloved and uncivil -- all led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful," but I don't think that's a big concern.
Vietnam era UUUUs were draftees, plucked out of their daily lives and shipped off to fight without their consent. Ex-felons who volunteer for the military today are different - they're more likely patriots looking for opportunities they can't find in the private employment market, searching, even at obvious personal risk, for that rare employer who will let them "be all that they can be."