Ex-offenders in Minnesota are slow-but-growing pipeline for employers

Neal St. Anthony, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

"I made up my mind to go through treatment through the Salvation Army (several years ago). I just feel more productive, mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. Some days, I work 18 hours. I don't cheat or steal. I positively influence people."

Harris works with transitional ex-offenders at 180 Degrees. He also works for Simpson Housing Services. He makes $15 to $17 an hour.

"Nothing happens until a person decided to change," said Harris, who got his high-school equivalency degree during his last prison stint.

The prison boom since the 1980s locked up disproportionately low-income minority men, most tied to drugs. Blacks are 35% of the Minnesota state-prison population although blacks make up less than 10% of the population, according to U.S. Census estimates. .

McDonald left Chicago 30 years ago to attend the University of Minnesota on a basketball scholarship.

McDonald, who also played professional basketball overseas for years, had a run-in with the law eclipse his professional plans. Twelve years ago, he was charged with drunken driving following a Gophers reunion at the U. A $100,000-plus job offer from his-hometown Northwestern University was withdrawn as a result.


"I don't feel badly for myself," said McDonald, also a local high school basketball coach. "I like to help people here restart their lives."

McDonald said most of his job placements for 180 Degrees go to temp-labor outfits that pay to $10 to $12 an hour.

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