Businesses could benefit from hiring ex-inmates

Published 03/19 2013 04:15PM

Updated 03/19 2013 05:30PM

SPRINGFIELD -- For every two prisoners released in Illinois, one will likely wind up back behind bars. There's a new push to lower that number by making it easier for ex-offenders to find work. WCIA-3's Steve Staeger has the story.

The proposal would increase the tax credit for businesses hiring former offenders. One local businesswoman can personally attest to the fact it works.

"Fourteen years ago, I made a huge mistake in my life. It's the one and only mistake I ever made. But, because of that mistake, every day I have to walk a walk and prove to others that I'm worthy of what I do."

Min Costa didn't climb the traditional ladder to become the general manager of a Travelodge Hotel. Her career path was more of a roller coaster ride.

She spent five years in prison. Two weeks after she got out, she took the first job she could find, as a janitor.

"You have a humble heart when someone gives you a chance. And you work triple the work because you have something to prove. That you're worth it. That you can do it. That you made a mistake. You just need a chance."

Costa took that chance and made the best of it. Now, she's the one doing the hiring and giving the second chances.

"They are some of my best employees because they walk the walk, they don't just talk the talk."

That's why she supports this new proposal. It would increase tax incentives for other businesses hiring former inmates.

"If an ex-offender is employed and not taking money from the state, they become an Illinois taxpayer."

Costa admits not every former felon makes a good employee, but she says, more often than not, getting that job on the other side, helps turn lives around.

"It's enhancing. It makes you feel like a human being when you're doing something for yourself. Your family's not supporting you. The state's not supporting you. You're becoming self-sufficient. You're becoming a citizen."

Costa actually testified in front of a senate committee. It passed out of that committee and is now headed to the full senate.

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