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Veterans who've been in prison


Matthew Smith Saint Louis, MO

Does anyone have any experience with being a Veteran who has unfortunately served time in prison and is trying to get back to having a career, or just a descent paying job? I can get any low-level, non-career jobs but I want/need to get back into having a descent career/job. I unfortunately was injured in Iraq and became a textbook pain pill addict after i got out of the Army. This led me to make a few bad decisions which landed me in prison. I had a great career before I went to prison even though I was addicted to pain pills for about 3 years. Now that I have been out of prison for over a year, I just can't find a good company that'll hire me since I have felonies on my background checks. I went 33 years of my life without having anything more than a speeding ticket on my record, then for 2 years I made a few bad decisions to help support my pain pill addiction. It seems that no good employers will take this into consideration as they just see felonies and prison on my background check and stop the hiring process. I don't have issues getting my resume recognized by great companies nor do I have problems with them calling me and setting up initial and even 2nd. interviews which lead to job offers. I get to the background check and once they get it back, they stop the hiring process. I do NOT lie about my background, but I am not forthcoming with it if they do not ask up front as this is personal information I do not need to share. It seems almost EVERY large company that does background checks these days do NOT ask if you have felonies on initial applications or in the interviews which get's my hopes up. Then the very last thing almost all of them do is a background check and then, 'SMASH', to all my hopes and dreams! I am in the St. Louis metro area and would like to see if any other veterans have gone through what I have gone through. Thank you in advance for any help!

6 December 2018 4 replies Career Advancement



Kathleen Colton Saint Charles, IL

Hello, Matthew.

If your felonies occurred in Missouri, effective January 1, 2018, a new expungement law went into effect. It is the Missouri Expungement Law of 2018, and it provides for a wide array of offenses, misdemeanor and felony, to be petitioned for expungement. However, the downside appears to be that felonies apparently cannot be petitioned for seven years after conviction. If you file an expungement petition, it must be done in the county where the felony occurred. The State has 30 days to object, but then you are entitled to a hearing before a judge, where you can make your case.

I suggest contacting a couple of local attorneys in the St. Louis area, as your best bet is probably to hire counsel to guide you. The local Bar Association should be able to help you find someone qualified. Attorney Chris Combs of the Combs Law Group has written a good article about the new law. Be aware, though, that there is a long list of offenses which are excluded, so there certainly are hurdles to overcome.



Paul Tusting Salt Lake City, UT

Hi Matthew,

I wish I had more advice to offer, but like Jeremy, I am very impressed with how you worded things above particularly "I went 33 years of my life without having anything more than a speeding ticket on my record, then for 2 years I made a few bad decisions". Maybe discuss the issue during the first interview as Jeremy suggests, and/or, work with a group that specializes in working with folks in similar situations, as Heather suggests. The only additional idea I had was working with your local VA or even your parole officer on finding organizations which may be more open minded.

It sounds like your experience/background earns you those interviews, maybe use them as a platform to explain your situation in person (vs. waiting for the background check, which may catch them off guard).

Thank you for your service, I wish you the very best with this pursuit, and have a wonderful holiday season.



Jeremy Serwer Woodstock, CT

Hello Matthew,

While I'm not an expert on your situation, one thought occurs to me: given your ability to GET interviews, what if you presented your situation upfront -- much as you eloquently have done above? Could be worth testing, as perhaps an employer might appreciate your being forthcoming on something they will discover anyway.

By then, they will at least have met you personally, and can judge based on character, vs an unfortunate involuntarily lapse in your past.



Heather O'Brien San Angelo, TX


There are organizations who do assist formerly incarcerated Vets in various ways. One such org is Veterans Healing Veterans- from the Inside Out. I know the founder and he may be able to offer you some advice. Otherwise, it is a great connection to make with others who have been in your situation. I hope this helps.

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