Ex Offenders Need Not Apply: Discrimination Against Non Violent Felons (HELP GRANT PARDON)

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Imagine someone telling you can't be what you want to be in life because you made a dumb decision as a kid? The United States has the highest prison rate,(not to mention 92 MILLION people with a criminal record) and it is not a coincidence that most people that commit crimes, keep committing crimes and end up back in prison. Some are NOT given the opportunity to succeed even if they are honestly rehabilitated. This petition is for the people who have changed, not the ones that choose to stay the same. We deserve a chance at a better life, and a chance to better humanity with our stories. We deserve the chance to succeed. I just want the opportunity to become that lawyer, doctor, hairdresser, teacher or whatever else that happens to spark my interest. Ex-felons are EXTREMELY stigmatized and aren't allowed to go for their dreams and goals.(We're not all the same, people commit different crimes) Many of us have already overcome many hard obstacles and are looking to better our lives and support our families (honestly and legally) Aren't you almost forcing us to stay the same by taking away job prospects and opportunities? In this economy it is hard enough finding a job, having felon next to your name makes it even harder. Many of us have our own stories to tell, this is mine...

I am a stigmatized 32 year old female, who is being discriminated against as a result of a NON VIOLENT felony conviction I received when I was a young adult. I am a recovering heroin addict who committed a 4th degree shoplifting offense in an attempt to support my drug habit. I also received more than two misdemeanor convictions for shoplifting as well.(Which include stealing pineapple juice from Shop Rite)  In the state of New Jersey this PERMANENTLY bars me from expunging my record, which subsequently prevents me from seeking licensed employment. The law in NJ regarding convicted felons severely limits my job prospects to low wages and poor benefits, especially as a female ex-offender. I have the highest of goals and aspirations in my life, and I do not want to be a waitress, work at subway or burger king for the rest of my life. (Which are the options people that work with ex-offenders give you or to get on food stamps/GA) I feel this is an unfair and discriminatory practice which prevents rehabilitated ex-offenders from becoming "normal" productive members of society. I am a firm believer in punishing criminal behavior, however the law subjects shoplifters to the same impediments as murderers and rapists under the stigmatized characterization of FELON. This lifelong-lasting cruel and unusual punishment is both unfair and contrary to the eighth amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. This petition is important for the advancement of rehabilitated non-violent ex-offenders and the elimination of discrimination and stigmatization of convicted felons. 

I have put myself through college and the job prospects I am allowed to do are not gratifying. I am constantly having doors slammed in my face because of a crime I committed several years prior. I cannot emphasize enough how much my life has changed. I am a mother, and want to be able to show my daughter that not only can I provide for her, but also that you can do anything you set your mind to. My past shouldn't permanently bar me from living out my dreams.

Many people will say "You made your bed, now you have to lie in it." I agree, and I have. I did my time, I paid my fines, and I haven't committed a crime since. I stole to support my drug habit, a drug habit I no longer have. Please help the ones who have changed and the the ones who want to change, but aren't given the chance to. Please take the time out for this petition. Thank you.

*American Bar Association identifies over 38,000 punitive provisions that apply to ex-offenders. Employers have the right to discriminate against any person who has an arrest record based on the principle of “negligent hiring” in the State of New Jersey. As a result of these liability statutes, employers protect themselves and their businesses by refusing to hire ex offenders. The end result is that convicted offenders, and even those who only have a mild arrest record, have extremely difficult time obtaining employment.

*The most recent outcome study conducted by the Department of Corrections reveals that the overall re-arrest rate for adult offenders previously incarcerated in a New Jersey state correctional facility is 55%, the reconviction rate is 43% and the re-incarceration rate is 31%. In New Jersey, as well as nationally, the highest risk period formerly incarcerated persons face is within that initial period following their release from prison. Of those offenders rearrested, about half were rearrested within nine months of release.....(I wonder why?) Employment of people with criminal records who have paid their dues is the key social policy that substantially reduces re-offending.