by Mark Schultz~

When an individual has spent time incarcerated and finally gets released, they may leave with a little bit of money, the clothes on their back and a bus ticket – but they also leave with something else…a stigma that can, and often does, become their master status.  That is to say that before they are seen as a father, mother, or potential employee, they are viewed as a criminal.  This can be detrimental as one of the main things that most of these recently released individuals want is to gain employment, and sometimes this is a requirement of their supervised release.  Despite Ban the Box legislation being enacted in Minnesota, which prohibits most employers from asking applicants about their criminal history on applications, some employers still refuse to give those with a criminal background an opportunity.  Even with applications no longer inquiring about past criminal behavior, employers can easily screen applicants given that their criminal background is accessible using the Minnesota Trial Court Public Access site.  Additionally, employers can still ask about prior criminal activity at interviews and subsequently deny employment.

Imaeg close-up of cabinet making
Photo by el alce web on Unsplash

While it is true that some occupations are off limits to those with certain offenses, such as drug crimes and sexually-based offenses, it may also be true that one of the reasons some employers feel that those who have spent time behind iron bars or steel doors do not possess the skills they are looking for.  However, what those same employers may not realize is that many of these recently released individuals have worked for MINNCOR, which is the Department of Corrections prison industries, which includes laundry services, printing, furniture for detention facilities, businesses, residences and libraries, cabinetry, upholstery and custodial products, just to name a few.  Additionally, the work settings, equipment used and work that is completed on a daily basis are the same, or very similar, to that which is completed in the same jobs outside of prison.  Thus, these recently released individuals that have worked while incarcerated are already trained, which would cut down, or even eliminate, the cost of training someone new.  To add to the benefits if hiring someone who has been released from a correctional facility and worked while serving their time, these individuals can develop transferable skills that are so highly coveted by employers, such as showing up to work on time, working with teams and independently, working with little supervision and producing quality products and providing valuable services.  Table one outlines the type of work that is done at Minnesota correctional facilities.

Table 1. Industries and Subcontracting in MINNCOR by Facility

Minnesota Correctional Facility MINNCOR Occupations Subcontracting Services
Faribault Wood Furniture, Laundry, Plastics, Custodial Products and Subcontract Labor Assembly

Cabinet Making

Metal Fabrication


Painting (Finishing)



Tube Bending


Wood Fabrication

Moose Lake Textiles, Printing, Subcontract Labor
Rush City License Plates, Stickers, Subcontract Labor
Shakopee Textiles, Safety Products, and Subcontract Labor
Stillwater Metal, Mattresses, Upholstery, Warehousing, Logistics, Distribution, and Subcontract Labor

Source: Minnesota Department of Corrections MINNCOR Industries Web Page (