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Exclusive jobs site launched for Returning Citizens: ‘Judgement stops where understanding starts’

Employment-matching site Jobs for Humanity has announced the launch of its fourth job site: Jobs for Returning Citizens. “When you hire a returning citizen, you’re telling someone that they matter enough to be employed. That’s a stark contrast from how they’ve been treated most of their lives”, says co-founder Roy Baladi.

Jasper Spanjaart on October 29, 2021 Average reading time: 6 minutes
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Exclusive jobs site launched for Returning Citizens: ‘Judgement stops where understanding starts’

Growing up on the heels of the civil rights movement era, Khalil Osiris spent his childhood years in the midwestern region of the United States. He had a stable situation at home and attended a good school. As his close relatives became members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Osiris became inspired to join them. The more he learned about the plight of black and other oppressed people, the angrier he became.

Khalil Osiris, described as a good student and an outstanding athlete, was only 17 years old when he was sentenced to five to 25 years in prison.

And as Osiris’ thoughts turned to anger, the inspired teenager felt he wanted to do something about it. “In short, my anger turned into delinquency and I committed a robbery”, he tells ToTalent in an interview. Khalil Osiris, described as a good student and an outstanding athlete, was only 17 years old when he was sentenced to 5 to 25 years in prison.

‘Everyone is in a prison of some sort’

After serving the minimum of five years in prison where he experienced what he describes as ‘savagery’, Osiris was released at the age of 22 — only to be back behind bars a mere three years later. This time, the judge upped his sentence. Osiris was to serve a sentence for up to 75 years for another robbery.

“I resolved to turn my cell into a classroom and the prison into a university.”

“It was during my second imprisonment that I realised I had been incarcerated long before I was arrested”, Osiris says. “I realised that the source of my incarceration wasn’t prison, but my own limited thinking, choices and actions. My epiphany was that I could get out of prison before I was released. So I resolved to turn my cell into a classroom and the prison into a university.”

During the next 15 years he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston University. He organised study groups to teach literacy and developed programs based on the principles of restorative justice. “I think most people are unaware of what they could become in their lives”, Osiris says.

“I have come to believe that everyone, regardless of their history or current situation, is in a prison of some sort.”

“For me, prison is a metaphor for self-imposed limitations and freedom is a choice. I have known people from the most privileged environments. And shared cell space with people who have only ever known hardship and adversity. I have come to believe that everyone, regardless of their history or current situation, is in a prison of some sort. A prison of their own making that limits them in some way, whether they are aware of it or not.”

The era of hidden workers

Although Osiris’ turnaround is groundbreaking by every stretch of the word, some people are stuck in a proverbial prison for the entirety of their lives. They never get a real chance to fulfil their potential. In short: despite the talent they can bring to organisations: they remain hidden.

2021 was supposed to be the year ‘hidden workers’ were given a shot in lieu of a worldwide talent crisis. But for the era of hidden workers to succeed, two main things are required: organisations that are willing to invest time and effort into hidden workers and a space that focuses on that very value they can bring and offer support to underserved job seekers.

A global movement of job creation

Although workplace inequality can’t be solved overnight, Jobs for Humanity was launched to bridge the gap for millions of people who face similar fates in a disproportionate lack of opportunity in the job market. Whether that be for the 285 million who are visually impaired, of whom 36% are unemployed. Or the 1 billion that are neurodivergent, of whom 85% are unemployed. Whether it be the single moms, black leaders or refugees — or, indeed, returning citizens like Khalil Osiris.

Jobs for Humanity co-founder Roy Baladi

“Our goal is to ensure companies hire qualified candidates who thrive in their organisation.”

“As an employer, Jobs for Humanity makes it easy for you to connect with qualified candidates from any of six under-represented communities”, says its co-founder, Roy Baladi. “We offer extensive coaching to interview, hire, and create an enjoyable workspace for them. Our goal is to ensure companies hire qualified candidates who thrive in their organisation.”

Jobs for Returning Citizens

So far, Jobs for Humanity has successfully launched various job sites specifically designed to serve its designated causes. Jobs for Refugees, Jobs for the Blind and Jobs for the Neurodivergent have launched. And in October 2021, the volunteer-led organisation launched its fourth exclusive job site: Jobs for Returning Citizens. “When you hire a returning citizen, you’re telling someone that they matter enough to be employed”, Baladi says. As of today, 1177 open jobs are listed across 35 industries.

“Knowing how to read a background check is a critical piece of social justice that’s not taught in recruiting school.”

“That’s a stark contrast from how they’ve been treated most of their lives, including before incarceration”, he says. “You then hire instant loyalty, hard work, deep empathy, team work, and gratitude. People go to prison for so many reasons. Knowing how to read a background check is a critical piece of social justice that’s not taught in recruiting school. You can lean on Jobs for Humanity for coaching on hiring returning citizens. And on our partner, Checkr, to learn the legality behind background checks. All so you’re supported through this rewarding journey.”

‘Judgement stops where understanding starts’

As for Osiris — he transformed his life while imprisoned. When he eventually was released from prison after 15 years, he says that he had to remain mindful of the choice he had to be free. Despite social barriers that were ‘too many to list’, Osiris focused the next phase of his work on teaching others about his own revelations.

He became the founder of Truth & Reconciliation Conversations (TRC), a global initiative focused on galvanising action to end racism and gender based violence and the Reflecting Freedom Network (RFN), a non-profit charity that provides access to web-based, accredited education for non-traditional learners including justice-involved youth and adults.

“My life’s work is about teaching people how to overcome self-imposed limitations and choose a freedom that comes from within.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Osiris also authored a course and program entitled Psychology of Incarceration, which is taught at universities and used in rehabilitation treatment centres throughout the US. “My life’s work is about teaching people how to overcome self-imposed limitations and choose a freedom that comes from within”, he says.

“Dostoevsky said it best: ‘Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him/her’.”

However, time and time again — the formerly incarcerated will be judged by both society and companies for their past acts. What would Osiris’ advice be to talent leaders and organisations? “I think Fyodor Dostoevsky said it best: ‘Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him/her’. Judgement stops where understanding starts.”

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Jasper Spanjaart

Jasper Spanjaart

Editor-in-Chief and Writer at ToTalent.eu
Editor-in-Chief and writer for European Total Talent Acquisition platform ToTalent.eu.
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