Oklahoma

Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

Ex-Offender Helps Build Careers by Giving Felons Work

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lonnie Hunt takes a break on a job site to place an employment ad for two additional workers. Hunt, an ex-felon who received construction training in prison, often hires other ex-offenders to help give their careers a start.

Hiring former inmates isn’t a priority, or an option, for many Oklahoma business owners. But Lonnie Hunt says felons are often better workers than those who’ve never been behind bars.

Hunt should know — He’s been to prison. And now he does the hiring.


BY LOGAN LAYDEN

The male unemployment rate is inflated by more than a full percentage point because the country’s convicted felons have such a hard time finding work, according to a 2010 report from the Center for Economic Research and Policy Research.

Finding a job — especially a good job — helps reduce recidivism, corrections officials and criminologists say. Ex-offenders who are employed have better odds never returning to prisons, which saves Oklahoma taxpayers about $20,000 per inmate each year.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lonnie Hunt directs workers and takes calls from the roof of an Oklahoma City home that suffered roof damage from a recent hailstorm.

Building a Future

Home repairs are still underway in northwest Oklahoma City following last year’s major hailstorm. Along Westchester Avenue, work crews strip damaged shingles from roofs and nail new ones down in their place.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A painter touches up trim on an Oklahoma City home damaged in a hailstorm.

“Business is good, business is good,” says Hunt, owner of Guaranteed Construction, which employs more than a dozen workers.

Hunt worked in construction trades most of his life, and his sun-weathered features serve as proof. He received a plumbing certification from a CareerTech Skills Center while he served time at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.

“I had a robbery charge, so, at that time I was incarcerated about four years,” he says.

A local plumbing company gave Hunt a second chance when he was released from prison. In 2008, Hunt started his own business and started trying to repay the kindness. At Guaranteed Construction, felons are welcome — as long as they’re hard-workers.

“The same thing applies with these other guys,” Hunt says. “When they get out, they have a problem finding jobs because of them being ex-offenders. So, we’re just, you know, passing it on.”

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Breon Bellamy went to prison for robbery when he was 18. He was trained as an electrician behind bars, and now has a job working for Guaranteed Construction in Oklahoma City.

Warden of Workers

Most of Hunt’s employees aren’t felons, but their appreciation for the job often means they’re more dedicated workers.

“They know that, for one, they have all of these strikes against them when they get out,” Hunt says. “So when they finally get a job, they certainly want to hold on to it. Because they know it’s so hard to get in the first place.”

When Breon Bellamy arrives on the job site, Hunt gives the apprentice electrician his marching orders.

Bellamy started started serving time for a robbery when he was just 18. He had no job skills when he went in. But he says he’s a totally different person now. He received training at a prison Skills Center, too, and now he has a job — his first one, if you discount an early career selling drugs.

“I knew when I got out here I couldn’t act the way I acted the way I did in the penitentiary, or the way I acted before I got to the penitentiary, because I knew it wasn’t right,” Bellamy said.

Bellamy has been on the job site for a few minutes and hasn’t even started working, but beads of sweat are already forming on his face.

But he’s not complaining.

“When you go to penitentiary and sit in them hot cells, and you don’t get no money, you don’t have no problem coming out here working in the sun,” Bellamy says. “When I was in the penitentiary, every summer, they don’t have air conditioning, so we’d be in there sweating. So now I don’t got no problems being out here in the heat. At least I get paid for being out here sweating.”


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Comments

  • OURadQueen

    Thank you, Mr. Hunt.

  • LeAnn Pollard

    As the wife of a convict, I thank you for what you are doing and wish there were more like you. Don’t know what you had to go through to get to this point, but thank you for making the effort and being successful.

  • http://twitter.com/ferrouscherry Cherie LeDoux

    I hired a company like this for a home service when I was living in California. They did the best job I’ve ever seen. Very professional and efficient, and the cost was quite fair. (Each of them also refused to accept tips. Even the box of donuts I put out.) Since moving out of state, I’ve tried to hire them again but they weren’t able to route their services my way. The two companies I’ve tried since weren’t nearly as good. I really wish I could hire them again.

    • OpportunityGrows

      I am in California, I am curious what company you hired as I would like
      to look them up. I agree people who have been incarcerated want a new
      start and a chance at an honest job. They tend to work harder to prove themselves. please reply with the name if you have it. thank you.

  • OutOfBox

    The War on Drugs does more harm then good! It has “BRANDED” too many people and made REHAB a money game!

  • JArmenta

    Since our communities are not stepping up, we as a nation are grateful for those who give back.

  • Papillon

    Lonnie Hunt deserves a medal. We need more people like him.

  • Paintermike71

    Does anyone know how to get intouch with him,my name is Mike I live in Illinois And would love to travel south to work with Lonnie.paintermike71@yahoo.com

    • joewertz

      Mike,
      That’s his truck with his number on it in the main photo.

  • Pleasememe

    I appluad his for providing jobs to ex felons, the crime rate will go down if these men and women can become gainfully employed duh!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nina.tillman.5 Nina Tillman

    how can i reach this company? i have an amazing brother who is getting out in a week and i would like some contact info for him to have.

  • Ashley jones

    Mr.Hunt, I stay n gainesville,fl,a ex convict and having a real hard time finding a job. I have a 15month old son,that I really love taking care of but I feel I can not support him tha way a father sould with no job,is there anyway someone can help me

  • A Barnett

    Great men are hard to come by. Your past should never determine your future.

  • crystal

    please contact me i am a single mother ex- felon looking to getting a pardons i have my landsscaping certification just left and abusive realationship wich led to my sentancing i am looking to better my life for my children to provide the best god has for us my num1 405-605-4114

  • Rick Baldwin Jr.

    Is there any way to get in contact with you. i’m an ex-felon looking for a job and having trouble cause of background checks. you can reach me at (405)-885-7847

  • anthony thomas

    Hi my name is anthony thomas and I have a wife and she is getting mad cause I go oit and look for jobs and she don’t understand having a felony mess up ur life I had a bad thing happen when I was 19 I broke into a house when I got drunk and blacked out it was the worse thing that happen to me now I am 22 I have payed my debt and I have tryed everything I can think of this job thing is destroying my marriage I can find a job no where and I need help if u could please give me some advice I would be in debt to u thank u my email is youngltony@yahoo.com thank u

  • Jim

    i am a felon of over 23 years and have not reoffended, the problem is after 9/11 this becamea money game by these fly by night companies doing background checks and saying it is fair and to bad! the rpoblem is i argued with one compnay thay they had given even to me wrong information, i was told to bad! As a felon watch your back and America needs to take a hard look at those who might have been in trouble one time or maybe 2, this does not mean this person male or female is usless or could not be a productive member of society once integrated back into the working world. god luck all

  • shamron Thoma

    My husband was released in November. he is certified through career tech, and has not been able 2 land a job.

  • The saddest father

    Just because someone has been convicted of a crime doesn’t mean they are a bad person or would make a bad employee, it just means they got caught doing something the law says a person should go to jail for. Personally I have been convicted for crimes I never committed, I was a victim of the system and began living like the villain they said I was. Well I decided I didn’t want to live like that, I shouldn’t be made into something I never was but being a victim of a crooked and perverse system is a very hurtful thing and can make a person act in a way that is against their nature. I take comfort knowing that one day we ALL will give an account of the deeds we have done and justice will be served righteously, even upon the people who work for this evil system and lied against me and forced me to admit to things I never did, I pray God shows mercy on those who took part in destroying my natural life and scarring me for good, but it will be a very hard thing for me to forgive them and this system I will NEVER forgive.

    • Innocent With a Record

      I don’t know if you will see this but I wanted to say that I have had the same problem and was wrongly convicted. I remember telling my mother all those years ago that the hardest thing about it was being forced to say I was guilty because of how the system works. I still struggle with the knowledge of that every day even though I have now been out for nearly 3-1/2 years. I lost several years of my life as well as my children because of the system. It’s not about what really happened but about what the system thinks happened and what you can prove. And still having to pay for my “crimes” by losing out on jobs and other things due to my felony record. It’s hard not to be angry about it even though it’s nothing that I can control. I think it’s the fact that there is nothing I can do that is the most upsetting.

  • matt primeau

    Hi everyone I am a felon on the same boat as alot of you. I live in st.charles missouri and am finding it very hard to get employed. I am a very hard and determined worker with a good work ethic. If there is any help out there or maybe a job please fell free to contact me at mattprimeau77@gmail.com thankyou good luck to all.

  • disqus_791jieNzPf

    Please help. I am an Ex-felon and am in need of a job. It is very hard for a woman to get hired after prison. If you can help in any way please email me at shirleyalsup@yahoo.com

  • lrb

    Thank you Mr. Hunt for what your doing for people with convictions. It means a lot to them as well as their families and loved ones. God bless you

  • Rob

    My name is Rob. I am an ex Felon also. I am living in the Norman, Oklahoma area. And I would love to have a job. My gift is Computers though. Networking and so forth and of course working on the computers as well. I have not had a job in almost four years now because of my felony. I just want to work and help provide income for my wife and I. Right now she is the only one who does the working. We want to move into our first house and can’t because there just is not enough money to move. Can anyone help me at all. Email me at rcnok02@gmail.com

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