After Prison, the Tough Road to Steady Work

Mark Klass taking a break from his job at the Fortune Society.

Mark Klass taking a break from his job at the Fortune Society. Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ketzel Levine, NPR

In the nation's sluggish job market, workers sometimes complain of a lack of choices. But for job seekers with a prison record, the choices are even more limited.

Counselor Mark Klass knows firsthand about those challenges. He says that while he served time for armed robbery, he and his fellow inmates knew that detailed background checks — common after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — would hurt them.

But now Klass works for the Fortune Society, a group dedicated to helping ex-prisoners find work after their release. Klass himself turned to Fortune for help, and wound up taking a full-time job with the group a little more than a year ago.

His task is to prepare former prisoners for the same challenges he faced, and to convince them that even the lowest-paying jobs are worth having. But for those lucky enough to land a job, Klass has a piece of advice that he also follows: Do whatever it takes to stay employed.

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