Having just a minor criminal record can often create substantial barriers to employment.
Further, studies have shown that a criminal record makes it more likely that returning citizens will end up back in jail or prison. However, one local entrepreneur is providing some hope.
Jamasee “Jay” Simms, the owner of J. Simms Events and Marketing, is combining her passion for criminal justice and public relations.
The criminal justice major, who once worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will host a two-day conference dedicated to rebranding individuals who have difficulty finding employment because they have a criminal record.
On Friday, October 25, and Saturday, October 26, Simms will host, “Flip the Script: Rebranding After Incarceration,” a conference she hopes will go a long way in helping to break the cycle at Perfect Office Solutions located at 6811 Kenilworth Avenue in Riverdale, Maryland. The conference starts at 9 a.m. each day.
“This event is the first of its kind. It's a rebranding conference for returning citizens where those in attendance will learn how they can use public relations tools and techniques to transform their lives successfully. These tools were once only for large corporations and brands,” Simms said.
Simms says participants will engage in resume building, dress etiquette, rebranding, mock interview workshops, and other activities. A job fair that includes employers who are ready to hire individuals despite past criminal records will cap the conference.
“I am a firm believer that after incarceration, everyone should receive the help they need to reenter society. I want to use the tools and techniques that are typically reserved for CEOs and large corporations to help returning citizens,” Simms said.
According to one study cited by Simms, within three years of release, 67.8 percent of ex-offenders are re-arrested. Within five years, 76.6 percent of ex-convicts are re-arrested.
Providing available opportunities should help, according to Simms.
“The stereotypes and negative perceptions of individuals who were in prison often supersede their skills and ability to perform job duties,” Simms said. “Pro- spective employers don’t often consider the mitigating circumstances of each individual that resulted in them being incarcerated. As a result, when prisoners are released, they face an environment that is challenging and actively deters them from becoming productive members of society.”
It has always been Simms’ goal to help others.
“I had to figure out what way I can give back, so I began to mentor children and returning citizens,” Simms said. “And, this event is something that I wanted to do for a few years because when these citizens return home, things are often different for them.”
One returning citizen Simms spoke with told her a sobering story.
“He mentioned technology, and you know technology is something that changes so much, even within a few months,” Simms said. “This young man went to prison in 1992, and he was released in 2017. So, when he went to prison in the 1990s, you used paper to apply for jobs. He needed to know how to use a computer. It was a major change.”
After one has paid their debt to society, they should be afforded a second chance to start a new life and become a productive citizen.
“Work keeps ex-offenders out of poverty, allows them to gain valuable skills and experience, and helps them avoid reoffending,” she said. “Although returning citizens face many obstacles when they are initially released, one of their toughest is combating widely-held stereotypes and re-establishing their identity. ‘Flip the Script: Rebranding After Incarceration’ conference aims to address the battle returning citizens face when they are pre-judged and denied opportunities solely based on their past.”
The conference is free to attend and registration is recommended. To register, visit: www.flipthescriptconference.com.