STOP RECIDIVISM AND ALLOW EX-OFFENDERS A REAL CHANCE AT REINTEGRATION
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Please help me place the right to work back in the hands of all Americans. Help make society a better place and prevent criminal behavior by signing this petition.
As a child most of us cannot wait to be able to work and make our own money. It was the basis for what life is and what is expected of us, when we too are grown. It became the most fundamental part of an adult life, get a job, provide for yourself and your family.
We as american's, take for granted the “right” to employment. We forget that this “right” can be taken from us. Few of us have ever stopped to think what it must be like for someone with a criminal record to find employment.
No, instead we sit back and say "They shouldn't be out stealing or doing whatever it is, they should be working and providing for themselves, they are just lazy and expect a free ride in life." Well ...
Not every offender is a bad person. Not all offenders, re-offend and not all persons arrested actually committed a crime.
My Husband is a very hard working individual, he works from sun up till sundown doing contracting work and whatever else he can (legally) to make a living for our family. He also does work for the elderly in our community free of charge because he likes being able to make them smile and he knows most of them do not have money to pay someone to do the labor that he does (leveling houses, rebuilding parts of a house, yard work, or simply keeping them company because they are lonely and their families have abandoned them).
Although ever neighbor we know for miles would recommend him for employment to anyone willing to ask, he still cannot simply go into any hiring entity, apply and get the job.
Why? Well that's simple, because over 7 years ago, he did a very stupid thing. He broke into a home owned by a relative of the girl he was dating at the time and stole an x box game system. Taking full responsibility for his actions, he plead guilty. He was then sentenced to 8 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. Since this was his first and only major issue with the law, he was able to have that sentence deferred and he was placed on probation for 8 years. He then made the choice to put his past as far behind him as possible. His efforts to regain himself and life have not come without difficulties, but we take each day, blessed knowing he could have went down a very different path. The struggles he now faced were completely different then before his actions that led to where he is today.
Recently, this year in October of 2017, 7 years after being placed on deferred probation with only 1 year left of his sentence, he was revoked. Not because he committed any new crimes, but because his probation officer thought he would be better served by being placed in prison then home were he was working and doing the best he can. The violation they sent him to prison over was administrative and not a new charge.
Because he was on deferred probation, they could have sent him to prison for the maximum of 20 years for a 2nd degree felony offense. Which is what the original case was classified as. And even though he has already done 7 years out of 8 on probation with no new charges, he was sentenced to 3 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. He is currently serving his sentence.
Although Chad (my husband) has a great support team here at home and has his own company to return to, many offenders are not so lucky. The struggle for them to find viable and adequate employment is near impossible. We are only one of millions of families that face this harsh reality every year.
Because of the right for an employer to know about your criminal record and ask about such on an application, finding a "real" job that offers benefits or the very least good pay, is almost impossible for someone with a criminal record. There is no chance to sit down face to face with the hiring individual and explain that you are no longer that person and wish for nothing more then the opportunity to prove you are worthy of a second chance. There is no box to check, asking if you are still involved in criminal behavior or explain how you have straightened up your life.
Yes, there are risks to hiring an ex-offender. There are also risks hiring non-offenders. When we step up and give them a way to fly, they will in return, spread their wings. And you will be surprised how many will do so thankful for the opportunity!
The very governmental agency that according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, is supposed to, “provide public safety, promote positive change in offender behavior”, and “reintegrate offenders into society…” throws them to the streets and expects great things from them.
The offenders then find themselves with a criminal record and the need for employment. This record is permanent, no matter what or how long the sentence is despite successful completion and rehabilitation. (in few cases the offender can file to have the case sealed). No matter if it is their 1st offense (as was my husbands) or the 100th, offenders have this label and as such they have a very hard time finding someone willing to hire them.
Public policies have allowed for criminal records to bar an offender form acquiring the most primary aspect of life, a job. Those without the support like my husband has in place will not be able to make it the first day let alone the next few weeks and months without a way to support their basic needs. To prevent recidivism, you must ensure that an offender will be able to support themselves or they will revert to the only thing that can provide for them, criminal behavior. With over 10,000 inmates released back into society each week the fact that they cannot find employment is very alarming. As President Bush stated in his 2004 State of The Union Address,
"This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can’t find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison…. America is the land of the second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life. "
When an ex-offender has a chance at something better in life, if we as a society push back against them, we are sealing their fate. Opposition is met with opposition. Why are we as tax payers okay with spending so much money on providing education an employment skills to those in prison if we are going to deny them the right to use those skills and education when they are released?
Whats being done
Recently, President Obama passed a law that makes federal job openings keep from asking about past convictions until later in the interview process. This has accounted for more ex-offenders a chance at living a normal and recidivist free life, allowing for the employer to first meet with them and get to see who they are as a person and not a check box on an application before making a decision that is not based primarily on their criminal background check alone. But this does nothing for the average employment opportunity.
Then there is the McKinney's Correction Law § 752 Unfair discrimination against persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses prohibited,
No application for any license or employment, and no employment or license held by an individual, to which the provisions of this article are applicable, shall be denied or acted upon adversely by reason of the individual's having been previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses, or by reason of a finding of lack of “good moral character” when such finding is based upon the fact that the individual has previously been convicted of one or more criminal offenses, unless:
(1) there is a direct relationship between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the specific license or employment sought or held by the individual;
(2) the issuance or continuation of the license or the granting or continuation of the employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.
This too leaves too much room for employers to find a reason to exclude the ex-offender from employment. The laws currently in place are not specific enough to keep employers from disqualifying someone for their criminal convictions and do not allow a “real” chance at rehabilitation and reintegration. Thus, the very system in place to reform an offender and societies public policy issues hold a high level of responsibility for recidivism.
Much like the new federal law passed by President Obama. I would like there to be a system in place that screens the applicant for convictions and risks that apply only to the position applied for after the hiring entity has completed a formal interview. A system that would work as a database that after an offer of employment has been given, the name could be entered into and a risk assessment that would be done based on the position applied for and previous convictions, only returning results if risk factors are found or given severity levels of such risks, like low or moderate or high. Thus eliminating the need to disclose the conviction at all if there is no risks found and providing a low risk offender a better chance at not being turned down than say an offender that has a high risk associated with the position. This would give the ex-offender a greater chance at being able to get the job that will keep him from having to revert to criminal activities to survive.
Not every offender is a career criminal, some have made mistakes and wish they could go back and change things. That however is not a reality and they know this. The only thing they can do at this point is to learn from their mistake and move forward. They cannot do this without employment.
How long is long enough? How long do we continue as a society to hold an individual back from being able to provide the basic human needs for themselves and their families? How long do we continue to force them back into criminal behavior so they can feed their crying hungry children? How long will we continue to tell them they need to get their lives straight, then deny them the right to do so?
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