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Ex-inmates need all the help city police can muster

2:15 PM EST, January 9, 2013

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With Baltimore City Police Lt. Col. Melvin Russell's appointment to a new unit dealing with former inmates, I hope he does more than pay lip service to this extremely important aspect of crime prevention ("Police turn to faith for help," Jan. 5).

As a former federal inmate I found it impossible to get a job while being honest about my past. Even after using all the organizations and government agencies that offer help, I still couldn't secure even a menial job.

I quickly realized I had two options: Either lie on the applications, or start my own business. I chose the latter, and with the $50 I received from the prison and a lot of hard work, I got by long enough — eight years — to have a resume that allowed me to get a part-time job on the bottom rung of small company's ladder.

This led to better jobs in several different companies until I reached my peak as sales manager at a major wholesaler in Virginia and a seat on the board of directors of the Va. Wholesale Distributors Association.

My crime was neither violent or sexual, only a marijuana charge. There were no government programs in or out of prison to help me re-enter society after years of confinement. Without the support of my family I would not have made it.

Good luck to Colonel Russell, and I hope he can help former inmates making that first step in returning as productive members of society.

Dan Shannahan

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