I have a criminal record. It took me years to own this fact, but I have never been able to ignore it completely. I’m lucky that it’s just a minor possession charge. During my years of addiction, I did a lot worse than forget to hide the weed in my car, but I never got caught. Many addicts cannot say the same.
It’s no secret that America’s justice system is broken. Most addicts know this, as it is especially evident when it comes to drug use. Drug use is still seen as a moral choice and offenders are punished rather than rehabilitated. Furthermore, while addiction should be seen as a mitigating factor when judging other crimes, it is often used to shine a negative light on the individual.
Of course, we could talk all day about how the justice system discriminates against people on the lines of race and socioeconomic background, but for now I’m going to focus on something that all “offenders” have in common: a criminal record.
A criminal record makes it difficult to find work. Many employers will write applicants off because of their criminal records, regardless of the type of charge. Arrest records can also disadvantage you, even if you were not convicted of anything. It can feel disheartening, as if you’ve been set up to fail. But there are ways to make money regardless of your criminal record.
Here are some possibilities to consider.
Before going into the various ways to make money with a criminal record, look into whether you can get your criminal record sealed or expunged. Sealing a criminal record takes it out of public view, but it can still be viewed by court order. Expungement removes all records of arrests or convictions, so that even a court or prosecutor cannot see it.
Sealing and expunging of criminal records is generally possible for minor offenses after a period of time has passed. The Center for American Progress has a helpful guide you can use to determine if you are eligible for sealing or expunging your record.
Some of the highest paying jobs you can find with a criminal record are those that require skilled labor. These include electrical, plumbing, welding, and carpentry work. Attending a trade school is the ideal way of getting your foot in the door. At a trade school, not only will you learn a skill, but you will also get resources to help you find a job. Trade schools have plenty of experience helping people with criminal records getting jobs after completing a course.
Alternatively, if you have the capital or can get a bank loan, you can start your own business doing skilled handiwork. This way, you have control of your own employment and can set your own rates.
Online freelancing has become one of the most surefire ways to make money in 2020, even for people without a criminal record. As we have learned this year, the world we live in is not as stable as we thought, and employment at a traditional job can be disrupted by external factors.
If you are able to write, code, design, sing, make music, and more, you can trade your services online. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr provide a platform that connects freelancers and clients. There are also many websites created by successful freelancers who can help you learn to pitch your services without using a platform, allowing you to forego commissions and charge higher rates.
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. If you urgently need money, starting a business may be far too risky. Furthermore, some personalities are naturally more suited to entrepreneurship, while starting a business is a much more difficult endeavor for others. Also, setting up a business is far easier if you already have a network. Many recovering addicts do not.
However, if you are in a position to start your own business, this can be an incredibly satisfying way of making money. You get to circumvent your criminal record entirely, while working entirely for yourself.
Making money with a criminal record is not easy, but there are options. Ask for help from NGOs and for resources from your rehab center, and you won’t have to go it alone.