Helpful Tools for Returning Citizens

Everyday we are asked what resources have helped us not only overcome our own challenges, but help other returning citizens find jobs and success through reentry. We decided to put together a list of resources that we use ourselves, and that others have used, to help themselves. We are continuously adding to this list as we find and use new tools and resources, or others tell us about new tools and resources they are using. We recommend bookmarking this page so you can reference it later. We hope you enjoy and find the same success we have through these tools and resources.


There are countless books about writing resumes, finding jobs, and making career decisions. While we can't speak for all of them, we have read a few ourselves. Here you will find a list of the ones we have personally read ourselves, and have had numerous others speak highly of.

Everyone Makes Mistakes: Living With My Daddy In Jail

by Madison Strempek

Take a heartwarming journey with 10-year-old author, Madison Strempek, as she candidly depicts her life experience of living with her father in jail. Through her eyes, you will live the heartbreak of her life changing news, discover how she survives with her embarrassing secret, and ultimately finds resolution and strength in understanding everyone makes mistakes. It’s truly a story of perseverance, forgiveness, and love. She skillfully helps the reader maneuver through difficult times by providing opportunities to reflect with blank pages of doodle space, letter writing ideas, and helping the readers find their inner champion. Madison’s personal story is not only valuable for kids living with a parent in jail, but also brings great insight to parents, doctors, social workers, psychologists, judges, lawyers, inmates, law enforcement, friends, and family that support children with incarcerated parents.

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Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed

by Mark Drevno

A step-by-step approach written specifically for ex-offenders that will take you through the process of finding a job. We offer tips and techniques to help you be more effective and give you the encouragement you need to reach your final goal -- a job that is a good fit for you and the employer.

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Beyond Bars: Rejoining Society After Prison

by Jeffrey Ian Ross

Can the common criminal get a fresh start

An essential resource for former convicts and their families post-incarceration.

The United States has the largest criminal justice system in the world, with currently over 7 million adults and juveniles in jail, prison, or community custody. Because they spend enough time in prison to disrupt their connections to their families and their communities, they are not prepared for the difficult and often life-threatening process of reentry. As a result, the percentage of these people who return to a life of crime and additional prison time escalates each year. Beyond Bars is the most current, practical, and comprehensive guide for ex-convicts and their families about managing a successful reentry into the community and includes:

  • Tips on how to prepare for release while still in Prison
  • Ways to deal with family members, especially spouses and children
  • Finding a job
  • Money issues such as budgets, bank accounts, taxes, and debt
  • Avoiding drugs and other illicit activities
  • Free resources to rely on for support
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Jobs For Felons

by Michael Ford

"Sorry, we don't hire FELONS!" Finding employment after being released from prison can be one of the most difficult tasks a felon faces. No one wants to hire you but parole terms require you to have a job or go back to jail. Even if you do not have parole requirements, you have to support yourself and that means you must face the question on every job applicatrion: "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" Over 80% of all employers use some form of background check today which greatly limits the job paths available to convicted felons and even those convicted of misdemeanors. Just because someone has a felony conviction does not necessarily make him or her a bad person. Unfortunately, most employers do not understand this distinction. There are many reasons, many valid reasons, someone can be convicted of a crime which can even result from them standing up for their rights or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many felony convictions are for non-violent offenses like failure to pay taxes, or refusing to testify against a friend, and similar offenses that are hardly crimes against humanity. Yet these poor souls are treated no differently from mass murders when it comes to finding jobs. This guide will help ex-cons and their families by providing important information you can use to find employment plus it explains background checks, how to deal with a conviction during an interview and much more that will help you after your release from jail or prison. Order your copy now and take the first step toward a new life.

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Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit of Hope, Healing and Forgiveness (Chicken Soup for the Soul)

by Jack Canfield

Previously available only through free distribution to prisons, this life-changing book is the result of charitable donations from sales of Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul and gifts from thousands of individuals.

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The Ex-Offender's Job Interview Guide: Turn Your Red Flags Into Green Lights

by Ron Krannich, Caryl Krannich

Addressing the many employability issues facing ex-offenders, this book shows them how to deal with today's job market challenges. Focusing on the critical job interview, it emphasizes the importance of turning obvious red flags into green lights by developing effective communication skills. Thirteen chapters focus on potential job knockouts, telling the truth, 40 interview mistakes, questions and answers, nonverbal interview behaviors, preparation, red flag questions, closing, follow-up, job offers, and salaries.

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What Color Is Your Parachute? Guide to Rethinking Interviews: Ace the Interview and Land Your Dream Job

by Richard N. Bolles

The first interview book from the What Color Is Your Parachute? career guru Richard Bolles.

Interviews instill fear in many a job-hunter, but this empowering guide from legendary career expert Richard N. Bolles reveals that interviews are really just conversations to determine if the work—and workplace—is a great fit for both parties.

For the first time, Bolles combines his decades of experience with the latest studies and job-market research to create an all-in-one guide for the whole interview process, from pre-interview research to elevator pitches, “tell me about yourself” questions, and salary negotiation. This slender handbook provides just the essentials: the three most important things you need to know about interviews, the five questions you must have answers for, and an ingenious summary of how to succeed. With this guide in hand, you’ll walk into interviews with confidence, armed with the means to impress—and hopefully land your dream job.

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What Color Is Your Parachute? Guide to Rethinking Resumes: Write a Winning Resume and Cover Letter and Land Your Dream Interview

by Richard N. Bolles

The first resume book from the What Color Is Your Parachute? career guru Richard Bolles.

Resumes get an average of eight seconds of attention before going in the trash—or getting on the shortlist. That’s just one of the findings reported here, as legendary career expert Richard N. Bolles presents new research about resumes in a guide that summarizes everything job-hunters and career-changers need to know about this essential tool.

This timely resource features the latest research on important resume topics such as key words, soft skills, scanning software, social media, and online posting. Bolles argues that on the basis of what we now know, we need to rethink what a resume is—and how it should be written. He details the words that must be avoided, and the words that must be used, on a resume that wins you interviews.

This slim volume distills a huge amount of information down to its very essence. Armed with tips and shortcuts based on the author’s decades of experience, you can craft a resume and cover letter that will stand out to your dream employers—and increase your chances of getting interviews and landing jobs.

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What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

by Richard N. Bolles

What Color Is Your Parachute? is the world’s most popular job-hunting guide, revised and updated annually, with more than ten million copies sold.

This 2016 edition features the latest studies and perspectives on today’s job-market, including proven strategies for finding jobs even when everyone tells you there are none. Career expert Richard N. Bolles reveals surprising advice on what works—and what doesn’t—so you can focus your efforts on tactics that yield results.

This helpful manual shares proven tips for writing impressive resumes and cover letters, as well as guidance for effective networking, confident interviewing, and the best salary negotiating possible. But it goes beyond that by helping you to zero in on your ideal job—and life—with its classic Flower Exercise. Whether you’re searching for your first job, were recently laid off, or are dreaming of a career change, What Color Is Your Parachute? will guide you toward fulfilling and prosperous work.

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Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type

by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, Kelly Tieger

The bestselling guide to finding career success and satisfaction through Personality Type is now thoroughly revised, expanded, and updated.

DO WHAT YOU ARE--the time-honored classic that has already helped more than a million people find truly satisfying work--is now updated to include jobs in today's hottest markets, including health services, education, and communications technology.

With the global economy's ups and downs, the advent of astonishing new technology, the migration to online work and study, and the ascendancy of mobile communication, so much has changed in the American workplace since this book's fourth edition was published in 2007. What hasn't changed is the power of Personality Type to help people achieve job satisfaction.

This fifth edition is especially useful for millennials and for baby boomers experiencing midlife career switches. The book leads readers step-by-step through the process of determining and verifying Personality Type. Then it identifies occupations that are popular with each Type, provides helpful case studies, and offers a rundown of each Type's work-related strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on each Type's strengths, DO WHAT YOU ARE uses workbook exercises to help readers customize their job search, ensuring the best results in the shortest period of time.

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"Unlocked": Keys To Getting Out & Staying Out

by Chance A Johnmeyer

"Written by veteran prison officer Chance Johnmeyer of New Hampshire, and Florida with contributions from several former inmates, Unlocked: Keys to Getting Out & Staying Out is an honest guide for those re-entering society. Combining compassion, experience, and practical advice, “Unlocked” talks straight about the challenges facing released inmates as they try to reestablish life on the outside. Filled with exercises, real-life suggestions, and a resource guide for Florida inmates, Unlocked is your pocket guide to embracing freedom and starting over--the right way."

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Inside: Life Behind Bars in America

by Michael G. Santos

Before Orange is the New Black, there was Inside.

American jails and prisons confine nearly 13.5 million people each year. Despite these disturbing numbers, little is known about life inside beyond the mythology of popular culture.

Michael G. Santos, a federal prisoner nearing the end of his second decade of continuous confinement, documents the lives of the men warehoused in the American prison system. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America, his first book for the general public, takes us behind those bars and into the chaos of the cellblock.

Capturing the voices of his fellow prisoners with perfect pitch, Santos makes the tragic―and at times inspiring―stories of men from the toughest gang leaders to the richest Wall Street criminals come alive. From drug schemes, murders for hire, and even a prostitution ring that trades on the flesh of female prison guards, this book contains the never-before-seen details of prison life that at last illuminate the varied ways in which men experience life behind bars in America.

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Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45 Year Prison Term

by Michael G. Santos

On August 11, 1987, when I was 23 years old, DEA agents arrested me. I served the next 9,135 days in federal prisons of every security level. On August 13, 2012, authorities released me. EARNING FREEDOM shows readers how I began to transform my life from inside of a county jail. It shows the steps I took to develop values, skills, and resources that would empower me through a quarter century in confinement. My disciplined and deliberate adjustment began with a principled plan, a commitment to serve my sentence with dignity. I thought about law-abiding citizens and wondered what I could do to earn their forgiveness for the bad decisions I had made during a reckless transition between adolescence and adulthood. Those thoughts led to a three-part plan: I would work to educate myself, I would work to contribute to society, and I would work to build a support network that would have a vested interest in my success upon release. By embarking upon the first prong of the strategy and sticking with it, I earned a bachelor of arts degree from Mercer University and a master’s degree from Hofstra University. For the second prong of the strategy, I wrote numerous books to help others understand prisons: the people they hold, how they work, and strategies for growing through confinement. With regard to the third prong, I worked every day to build a support network that would help me succeed upon release as a law-abiding, contributing citizen. To build my support network, I created a document that I called “my portfolio.” It was a binder that included copies of my degrees and letters of recommendation that I asked my professors to write on my behalf. Whenever I read of someone whom I thought might have an interest in my work, I reached out by sending a letter and a copy of my portfolio. For every 100 letters I wrote, I received one or two responses. Some of those people were distinguished scholars who wrote extensively about the prison system. People like Norval Morris, from The University of Chicago, John DiIulio, from Princeton, and Joan Petersilia, from Stanford Law School. They became mentors to me, opening numerous opportunities that few would think possible for a man serving a lengthy prison term. It worked so well that I met the love of my life, Carole, while serving a quarter century in prison. We married in a prison visiting room and nurtured our marriage through my final decade of imprisonment. Using blank pages of paper, I drafted a design for a website that I wanted Carole to build. The purpose of the site was to help others understand prisons, the people they hold, and strategies for growing through confinement. I wanted to document my journey, to show others the values-based, goal-oriented approach I took to the adversity of my life. I wanted others to see that with deliberate action steps, an individual could triumph over his environment. Efforts that Carole and I made to live transparently, using the Internet to memorialize our journey, helped to broaden my support network and opened opportunities that I could leverage upon my release. They enabled me to earn an inner freedom, even if I remained in prison. On August 13, 2012, Carole picked me up from prison and drove me to a halfway house in San Francisco. This book tells the story of my journey. The context of my story may be prison, but my message is decidedly human, as we all face adversity of one kind or another. Mine is a message of hope, perseverance, and deliberate action. It shows that regardless of what challenges an individual or business faces today, that individual can set a principled plan to overcome those challenges. That is the essential message of EARNING FREEDOM.

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Triumph: Straight-A Guide to Conquering Imprisonment

by Michael G. Santos

Triumph! The Straight-A Guide to Conquering Imprisonment and Preparing Prisoners for Reentry introduces strategies that Michael G. Santos used to prepare for a law-abiding, contributing life while traversing a quarter century in prisons of every security level. This book is a companion to Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term and Prison! My 8,344th Day. Together, the trilogy offers prisoners hope. The books show strategies that one man used to begin transforming his life immediately after a jury convicted him for trafficking in cocaine. Authorities arrested Michael G. Santos on August 11, 1987. While locked in a county jail, Michael faced a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. He pledged to emerge from whatever sentence his judge imposed differently from the reckless adolescent he had been while trafficking in cocaine. Wanting to return to society with values, skills, and resources that would translate into success, he came up with a three-part plan to guide his prison adjustment. It required that Michael work: 1) to educate himself; 2) to contribute to society in meaningful, measurable ways; and 3) to build a support network. Michael’s three-part strategy led to his achieving significant accomplishments during the 25 years that he served. Through Triumph!, Michael shows others that to the extent they embrace the same values-based, goal-oriented strategy of the Straight-A Guide, they can achieve more than anyone would expect of someone who is incarcerated. The strategy empowers individuals to tune out the noise of negativity and external forces that pervade every prison setting, showing them instead how to tap into an inner strength as they pursue success. The Straight-A Guide begins with attitude, requiring an individual to live with a 100 percent commitment to success. It requires an individual to visualize the aspiration of what he wants to become. Then it urges him to take action. The Straight-A Guide urges the individual to create accountability to measure progress. It gives an individual the skill to become aware of opportunities, and to make the marketplace aware of their work. The Straight-A Guide encourages those who adhere to the strategy to celebrate incremental achievements and to show appreciation for the blessings, opportunities, and resources that flow along the way. In Triumph! The Straight-A Guide to Conquering Imprisonment and Preparing Prisoners For Reentry, Michael G. Santos speaks from a position of strength. Rather than offering theory, he offers stories from his observations and experiences of overcoming a quarter century in prisons of every security level, showing how he returned to society with employment offers, financial resources, and an enormous support network. Those who want to learn more may Google his name, visit his YouTube channel, or his website at

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MasterMind Participant Workbook

by Michael G. Santos

The Earning Freedom Participant Workbook goes along with the Earning Freedom Mastermind Course. Participants use this workbook to record progress they make through the course.

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Success!: The Straight-A Guide

by Michael G. Santos

This book shows at-risk youth and young offenders the dangers of maintaining criminal associations and living criminal lifestyles. Its purpose is to show young readers the benefit of leading values-based, goal-oriented lifestyles. To share this story, Michael brings readers into a classroom of at-risk youth. He works with a group of other offenders to introduce the self-directed success strategies of the Straight-A Guide program. Each man tells his story of how he began making bad decisions during his youth, then he explains the consequences that followed those bad decisions. This book includes images and graphics that engage the readers. It is part of the comprehensive Straight-A Guide training curriculum, which encourages readers to identify the values by which they profess to live and to set clear goals within each value category. The book encourages readers to move toward their values and goals in a deliberate, methodical manner. Success! is one of many books that Michael G. Santos wrote to help readers see that despite difficult circumstances or bad decisions, individuals can overcome and begin living as law-abiding, contributing citizens.

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The Voice from Inside: Failure Brings New Knowledge

by Mr. John Wannamaker

“The Voice from Inside” is the first book by professional speaker John Wannamaker. The book is about finding yourself in the midst of heartache, turmoil, break-up and failure and then how to redefine yourself with new knowledge. This book is a collection of his best blogs and the blogs he refused to publish during his time in federal prison. He captures the transparency angle of prison and tells of how the prison system is a microcosm of our society (families, neighborhoods and cities). These thought-provoking entries open your mind to other areas of thought. “You know what you know, you know what you don’t know, but you don’t know, what you don’t know,” is how John views the ideas expressed in this book. You can use this book for your own life and any problem you may encounter by allowing the ideas and suggestions expressed to open your mind to different views and angles that will allow you to solve your own issues, whether inside prison or living a normal life of freedom. John uses his personal struggles, witty-humor, intelligent thoughts and obscure views to detail the days of struggle he faced. He gives the candid presentation of what is before him and how it starkly parallels to the issues facing our daily lives outside of confinement. The Voice from Inside is a book that details his voice from within the federal prison walls and also from within a man who is a believer in God, a believer in life, and a believer in helping others through the darkness. This book will invigorate your thoughts, create a conversation, and provide a snapshot view of areas which need collective attention and transparency only truly conscious people can provide. If you are a do-er or thinker, this book is a catalyst for change.

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The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage

by Daymond John

Daymond John has been practicing the power of broke ever since he started selling his home-sewn t-shirts on the streets of Queens. With no funding and a $40 budget, Daymond had to come up with out-of-the box ways to promote his products. Luckily, desperation breeds innovation, and so he hatched an idea for a creative campaign that eventually launched the FUBU brand into a $6 billion dollar global phenomenon. But it might not have happened if he hadn’t started out broke - with nothing but a heart full of hope and a ferocious drive to succeed by any means possible.

Here, the FUBU founder and star of ABC’s Shark Tank shows that, far from being a liability, broke can actually be your greatest competitive advantage as an entrepreneur. Why? Because starting a business from broke forces you to think more creatively. It forces you to use your resources more efficiently. It forces you to connect with your customers more authentically, and market your ideas more imaginatively. It forces you to be true to yourself, stay laser focused on your goals, and come up with those innovative solutions required to make a meaningful mark.

Drawing his own experiences as an entrepreneur and branding consultant, peeks behind-the scenes from the set of Shark Tank, and stories of dozens of other entrepreneurs who have hustled their way to wealth, John shows how we can all leverage the power of broke to phenomenal success. You’ll meet:

  • Steve Aoki, the electronic dance music (EDM) deejay who managed to parlay a series of $100 gigs into becoming a global superstar who has redefined the music industry
  • Gigi Butler, a cleaning lady from Nashville who built cupcake empire on the back of a family recipe, her maxed out credit cards, and a heaping dose of faith
  • 11-year old Shark Tank guest Mo Bridges who stitched together a winning clothing line with just his grandma’s sewing machine, a stash of loose fabric, and his unique sartorial flair

When your back is up against the wall, your bank account is empty, and creativity and passion are the only resources you can afford, success is your only option. Here you’ll learn how to tap into that Power of Broke to scrape, hustle, and dream your way to the top.

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Other Tools

Sometimes books are enough. Below you will find some other tools & resources that we use on a daily basis and couldn't live without.

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25) (Classic Notebooks)

We could not live with our Moleskin notebooks. The professional appearance and durability makes them appropriate for the boardroom or living room. We recommend them for taking daily notes, preparing for job interviews (don't forget to write questions for the interviewer about the company or points you want to bring up during the interview), and daily work. Having a good notebook is essential and learning to take notes and write down your thoughts on a regular basis is a key to success.

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Have a book or product for returning citizens that you would like included here? Please contact us at We will review your request and respond immediately. In some instances we may require an evaluation copy for further review.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. While we do earn a small commission from these products, we recommend them only because we ourselves have used them and found them to be helpful. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.