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Alternative Life Choices for Ex-Offenders

Updated on September 28, 2014

A Different Viewpoint

Spending time in prison or being a former crack head might not be the usual career path of a motivational speaker, but it is one of the career choices worth exploring for anyone who can inspire, encourage, educate and be an agent for change. It is not a given that one has to be an ex-offender or an ex-drug addict to be a convincing motivational speaker. In fact, anyone who can research topics on prison and drugs can tell a story. However, ex-offenders willing to share their story in a public arena can be instrumental in a life changing event for someone on the road to self destruction.

Motivational Speakers are “storytellers.” They must have a captivating and effective way of delivering information. In addition, motivational speakers should have a charismatic personality, be comfortable standing in front of an audience and be able to tell a story that will make an impact on the audience.

Former inmates and drug addicts have powerful stories and one of best ways for a charismatic ex-offender to reinvent their life is to explore self employment. A career as a motivational speaker might be a good choice. One of the problems an ex-convict has when he gets out of prison is to survive on the outside. The first hurdle is getting a legal paying job. This can be the number one setback for a person who has been in prison. Most employers are not willing to give ex-offenders their first re-entry into the work world.

The traditional job interview for a former prisoner is is fraught with pitfalls. If they get past the interview, there is the background check, the drug test and finally the gap in employment as a further stumbling block. Facing insurmountable odds the ex-offender has trouble landing a job. The failure to find meaningful work that pays a decent salary oftentimes leads the ex-offender back to prison.

Motivational speaking is just one of the methods an ex-convict can create a new beginning out of an old lifestyle. It is a great way to inspire others to stay off the path to self destruction; however, it is only one of the career choices where one can be self-employed. In addition, not all ex-offenders have the personality or style to be a public speaker. However, anyone who is willing to persist and learn the skills can succeed.

Instead of ex-offenders settling for careers as janitors, warehouse workers, clerks or parking attendants, self-employment is an alternative to consider. Some famous people who danced on the wrong side of the law include: Charles Dutton, Don King, Robert Downey, Jr., and Judge Mathis. They have chosen to reinvent themselves, negate their past behavior and upgrade their quality of life. For at least one of them, the road to respectability has been extremely hard but he keeps trying.

Nothing is impossible for anyone who wants to have a different outcome for their life. For those ex-offenders too shy or not inclined to stand and speak in front of a crowd there are other careers where one can be successfully and gainfully self-employed. Some examples include: Business owner (not drug dealer), lawn care service (average income $51K per year), caterer (average income $29K per year), recycler (average income $55K per year), actor (average income starts at $60K average income and could go over a million dollars), inspirational speaker (average income $100K per year) and scrap metal dealer (average income $50K per year).

Self-improvement is not easy for any one. It takes time and it takes money. How can an ex-offender with $200 in gate money when they leave prison make the money needed to become self employed? Become a self-employed mini-entrepreneur immediately. Turn the $200 gate money into your first stake as a foundation for your future business. Open an account at a credit union (account fees are cheaper than banks) with $50. Take the other $150 and buy supplies to wash and detail cars, or to take a business course at a community college, or to buy a bicycle to run errands. Whatever it takes to advance your big picture goals, as long as it is legal it is a new beginning. The money you make from your ventures- deposit half the money into your new savings account and spend the balance on food, room and board. If you are fortunate enough to have a supportive family or partner to help with food and housing - show them, by your actions, that you are on a positive path to a future life.

Finally, get rid of every negative person in your life whether they are family or friends. In fact anybody who tells you that you cannot achieve your goals – drop them like a hot potato. They are not a good friend if they do not support your legal lifestyle. If you are an ex-offender and you are serious about changing your lifestyle and creating a quality life for yourself and your family you have to be able to identity and understand what real friendship means. Friends will support you but they will not enable you. They will also rejoice in your success and not be jealous of you.

Be persistent in your goals. Calvin Coolidge once said – “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Start now creating a positive and quality life for yourself and your family.


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    • profile image

      Brenda Johnson 

      2 years ago

      Thanks so much awesome and very helpful info. Im on my way.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      How inspirational you are. This was written a couple years ago and i've been bless to run dead slap into it. I look forward to learning and growing from everyone on here with a positive outlook on overcoming life issues on life terms!!! Thanks for the pull up and information

    • ashantiw profile image


      7 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana

      I just started a hub last night, and look forward to connecting with like-minded people. If you will look at my hub you will see that I served 27 1/2 years in prison. I was released twelve years ago. Today, I am an international motivational speaker, mentor, leadership teacher, life coach, associate pastor and film maker.

      Most of the people I was incarcerated with (those who returned t society) are speakers, pastors, business owners or community organizers. A lot of people don't realize tat it is often easier to build your own business then to search for jobs.

      I will be posting articles on this and similar subjects in the future. Stay blessed.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      thank you for the printing of this article i have recently commenced speaking to college students. continue doing the work that you do

    • RealTalk101 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great article!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I must apreciate your hub. Thought you'd like to also know a very useful site with dozens of articles on the same subject. You can find it here

    • MizJeannie profile imageAUTHOR

      E Jeannie Sanders 

      8 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Find programs that work with ex-offenders on re-entry and offer to speak at special events and build a following. Use the Today Show video as your public relations and marketing tool. Connect with churches. It is great if you can get juvenile offenders to listen to you so they do not make the transistion to prison when they turn 18. Once you have a following you can start charging serious bucks. Develop a program for yourself and get a grant to fund it - social entrepreneurialship (something that benefits the greater good and in the public's interests). Motivational speakers develop a following, some start as volunteers for civic clubs, Rotary clubs, etc and then the word gets out and all of a sudden you are in demand. You can also sign up with the National Speakers Bureau for paid gigs. Network with prison officials - most states have money for re-entry programs for ex-offenders - you need to be on the list as a motivational speaker. These are just a few suggestions. Finally, if you are not already on Facebook and Twitter - get on there and advertise your services. Good luck to you.

    • profile image

      John Fuller 

      8 years ago

      Great stuff. I would like to know who I can contact to begin getting booked as a public speaker?

    • Chatkath profile image


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you for addressing this topic MizJeannie-there are so many hurdles and they are NOT easy to overcome, I know. Great feedback everyone, you have to be committed to surviving out here, without attitude - no matter what it takes - You are worth it!

    • MizJeannie profile imageAUTHOR

      E Jeannie Sanders 

      9 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Thank you. I have ex-offenders in my life and self-employment has helped them stay out of prison and create a wonderful quality of life for their families. Good luck with your work - it is hard but in the end the success stories make it all worthwhile.

    • career fitnesspro profile image

      career fitnesspro 

      9 years ago

      Great post. I work with substance abusers and have worked with ex-offenders for about 20 years. I always say get rid of "all" you escape routes. So often people want to take the road of least resistance but being committed to freedom and doing what ever it takes to stay out does pay off.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      good information Jeannie especially for an aspiring Social Worker like myself...

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Jeannie, thanks for not only bringing attention to this subject but providing help. Keep on with the good works.


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