12 ON YOUR SIDE: Questions about ex-offender jobs

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - When is it safe to look past criminal records of ex-cons and hire them to work at prisons?

12 On Your Side has confirmed Virginia D.O.C. is putting together guidelines to protect itself and others, should something go awry with a former prisoner on the job.

There are corrections employees who won't go on camera, but say they will not hire a former inmate unless ordered to, or they would quit their prison jobs if forced to work next to an ex-prisoner.

Harold Clarke, director of Virginia D.O.C. said the guidelines are new, but ex-offenders have worked in state government for years.

"One may be quite capable, competent, qualified to do a job without creating any security concerns, while another would not be so positioned. We have to determine who to hire for a position or who not to hire for a position," said Clarke.

Clarke said some ex-offenders currently work as drivers and in non custodial positions. In other words, an ex-con would not be guarding prisoners or working in certain data sensitive areas.

"Ex-offenders will not be allowed to work everywhere and anywhere within the department. We must safeguard the interest of the agency and so we are having those conversations today."

Conversations that have sparked some grumbling, but corrections employees are scared to say anything publicly.

Clarke said he's motivated to create job opportunities and second chances for ex-offenders because roughly 12,000 inmates annually serve their time and re-enter our communities. He believes they should have employment opportunities like any other citizen.

"If we're going to expect the private sector and other agencies to hire these individuals, we should do the same thing as well, using good judgement and discretion. The guidelines that we're putting together is to make sure that as these decisions are made, we are protecting victims. We're protecting the system itself, and we're not exposing the state to any injury."

Clarke said he asked his staff to develop guidelines, and a system to evaluate ex-offenders for prison jobs. He's willing to sit down and address concerns, but he hasn't heard any complaints from correctional officers.

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