A job for a smart, annoying, musically gifted ex-con?
August 21, 2008 10:55 AM   Subscribe

What career paths are available for someone in their 60's who has spent much of his life in and out of prison? (the long, not too gory details inside)

An old acquaintance has been out of prison for a few years on various drug charges and is looking for gainful employment. I want to help guide him towards something other than the temp work he is occasionally getting.

His most obvious skills are:

1) Crazy-talented guitarist/musician
2) Basic MS office skills

His drawbacks:
1) He's hard to be around--he's not good in social situations and tends to annoy people.
2) He's been in and out of prison most of his life due to drugs.

He wants to do something with computers, but I feel 'liking to use a computer' is not a sign of computer skills.

Any clear-cut paths he could take to earn a living? Ie, take x class, and then get a decent job doing y.
posted by verevi to Work & Money (11 answers total)
 
Well, is he any good with his hands? I had a friend from high school, who, upon his release from prison, went to work for a guy who was a furniture refinisher/reupholsterer. He learned how to work with antique furniture and the like, and appreciated the fact that he only worked in a shop with the owner, his wife and one other guy who did deliveries.

We're not in touch any longer but I do recall that he said he had no luck with larger companies.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:40 AM on August 21, 2008


Unfortunately, most places just aren't going to hire him, even if he goes and takes classes. It's hard and it's horrible, but I have several friends who have done time and it's kind of the ultimate resume killer. The only way they've ever gotten work is through people they know. You and your friend need to network like crazy and then take any job, whatever job, might come up. A lot of those are not going to be great paying fun jobs but, well, there you have it. The other option is to start your own business - I have a friend who started as a general handyman and is now a contractor with his own crew. What about running a hot dog stand or something like that? Janitorial services might be another option to look into; I know some people who do that and make surprisingly good money.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:06 PM on August 21, 2008


I have to agree with mgl. Even if he hadn't served time you're looking at someone who wants to start a new career with no expierence when they're only a few years off from retirement age. That alone woud make most employers hesitant. No, it shouldn't happen, no it's not legal, but it happens all the time. Any job "with computers" will be pretty much off the table since a lot are either going to require a college degree and/or criminal background check. One incident might get you in, but a lifetime in and out of jail? I hate to say, but he's stuck with anyone who will take him.
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:19 PM on August 21, 2008


1) Crazy-talented guitarist/musician

How crazy-talented is he? If he's *that* good, then he could find work as a studio-musician or stand-in player in most major cities. It's no the end-all be-all, but it may help make ends meet. I've never known a musician that cared too much about their band-mates' past (unless they wound up sketching out on a gig).
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:32 PM on August 21, 2008


Or, teaching guitar.
posted by netbros at 1:00 PM on August 21, 2008


Where is he located? If he's in an urban area or near a tourist hot-spot, he could busk. The combination of good musical chops and a setlist composed of crowd favorites (Beatles songs are always good) could bring in some decent cash. Not really enough to live on, sure, but could be used as a creative outlet and way to supplement whatever low-paying job he is able to get.

Data point/anecdotes: I have a few friends who have been able to make $30-100/hour busking in high-traffic areas (subway stations, farmers' markets). They were cute, 20-something girls, though, not 60-year-olds with no social skills.
posted by lunasol at 1:31 PM on August 21, 2008


I think netbros' idea is good, teaching guitar could work pretty well. My guitar teacher was a grumpy former sailor who ran away from home as a kid. We usually spent the time drinking tea, he telling stories from the past, and than playing a bit. I loved it.
posted by dhoe at 1:34 PM on August 21, 2008


His most obvious skill is his prison experience.

His target clients are wealthy white collar criminals who have been convicted but not yet sentenced, and who are afraid of being beaten and raped "on the inside".

Your friend charges them $500/hr for advice, training, role-playing encounters they will have in prison. Two grand and up for the course. Extra if he contacts associates on the inside asking them to make prison life easier for a client. Money paid up-front, in cash, no refunds if the sentence is probation.
posted by orthogonality at 5:21 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


PS. His annoying, asocial attitude will serve to convince clients he's the real deal.
posted by orthogonality at 5:23 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, his other clients are affluent parents of upper middle-class kids sentenced on drug charges. Coach little Johnny weekend weed seller on etiquette and comportment and how not to be invited to "dance" in the Big House.

Have your friend offer to subcontract to, or consult for, local defense lawyers who serve the wealthy. That's a deniable kickback for the lawyers.
posted by orthogonality at 5:30 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have to second just about everything that has been said above, but add an idea which is probably unlikely, but might work out if you and your friend, as said above, "network like crazy."

If y'all can get him session musician work through one of those large, and largely impersonal recording studios, he might be able to shift that into work as a recording engineer, depending on how knowledgeable he is about the equipment involved, how good his instincts, and ears, still are, and how serious he is about truly learning the ins and outs of the recording programs involved. In my experience with recording studios (which is not insubstantial) the engineer having a good personality is usually an unexpected surprise, rather than an expected courtesy, and at the type of place where my band recorded our album, there was little-to-no involvement from anyone else aside from the engineer who's room we were working with.

The truth is that while it's hard-as-balls to make good money as a musician, it is far, far easier to make money from musicians, especially if you've got chops. I'm guessing your friend will have more trouble finding work (that he likes) on account of trying to start a new career at age 60 than because he's done time on drug charges. But if he can honestly learn the software (ProTools or the like) and then use his musical talents to make the best use of him, there might be something out there for him yet.

Again, this is a small possibility, but if he's serious, might be his best bet for a fulfilling career which respects his talents.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:07 AM on November 1, 2008


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