Frequently I get questions from ex-offenders and felons looking for jobs and job search assistance. From time to time I get mail form ex-offenders and felons just wanting to be heard. Take a few minutes and read something I received from a reader of this blog. Feel free to comment.
I’m writing in hopes of letting my story be known to help and encourage women of all ethnicities, cultures, socioeconomic status, and the alike. I was watching Mo’Nique's documentary entitled, “Women Behind Bars,” and saw myself. I don’t believe I’ve cried with such intensity in years and absolutely hate to see women placed in such testing predicaments. Having experienced adversity and can understand how simple it is to be caught within certain circumstances. But now I have a question I’d like to ask the world, a felon serving time, paying back debts to society or whatever discipline is necessary, I concur, but what else is expected of a felon when seen as a title and society won’t assist these human beings (felons) back into what is called a “forgiving world.” Living in Colorado, I have come to experience racism from many aspects, African American, female (educated), epileptic (disability), and a felon. With these characteristics defining me as a person, employment, or to suggest a second chance in the state of Colorado is almost non- existent. Employers in Colorado do not assist felons with employment necessary to pay back debts, live efficiently and evade recidivism, where most felons eventually return to a life of crime for a means of survival.
I for example, unemployed and being a convicted felon am ineligible for assistance. I’m curious to know what services, options, choices and the alike are available for cultured felons? To give a brief synopsis of my conviction; I plead guilty to and was convicted of a misprision of a felony in 2006 a crime committed by a young man in 2002. Misprison of a felony was an offense under the common law of England and was classified as a misdemeanor. It consisted of failing to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities. After the 9/11 tragedy, the United States, reinstated the Patriot Act, adopted and revised England's law of a misdemeanor "misprison of a felony" making it a felony and terrorist act to protect the country against further terrorists or terrorist acts (basically ourselves). Having knowledge of a crime or criminal, placed me in the category of being a terrorist threat to my country. Though it is documented a witness came forward in 2003 stating money was offered in exchange for my life, instead of providing protection for a US citizen, the government chose to convict and sentence a U.S. citizen for essentially not “snitching” and protecting the lives of her and her family. When we have no one in the country we can trust, who do we turn to? When families are afraid and fear for their lives added with the lives of their children (i.e. domestic violence homicides) and the government deems the victim(s) as a terrorist or their actions a terrorist act, where do we go and what do we do to protect our own?
Having no prior criminal history, I was sentenced to one year in a woman’s federal facility in Fort Worth, Texas (released October 2007) and one year probation (completed 2008). Since my release in 2007, I completed and received a B.S., in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Domestic Violence and Juvenile Delinquency. Wanting to increase my awareness and familiarity of family, I directed my career objective to counsel women and children; and enrolled in Argosy University where (passing the necessary exams) I will receive an MBA, LPC in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in September of 2012. While attending school full-time, I volunteered with Bridges of Silence; an after school tutoring program for children and youth; ages 6-18. But ineligible for hire due to a felony back ground. At the same time, I completed training to obtain certification for CPR, Standard First Aid, and Blood Pathogens.
Now having a criminal history, I will use my story as an example for others to follow when making what could be life changing choices. I was what most considered “The All American Girl” born in the United States, first job at the Mall, age sixteen, honor roll, track star, peer counselor, comedian, prom queen, and later registered to vote, age eighteen. I like to think I was a model citizen until my choices lead me to a path of devastation. I made a mistake in my choice of friends, relationships, life in general and feel I owe it to society, in particular, the younger generation to emphasize the importance of where our choices, positive and or negative, could eventually lead us. Working with and empowering children is a difficult task, and is not encouraged when one has a felony record. I do discourage convictions involving children, but rather, use a conviction such as my own, to dissuade children from following the same path. I am often discouraged from many job openings with children for discrimination purposes as all of the applications clearly specify, “a felony conviction does not automatically disqualify employment,” however, having that title automatically places a negative stigma amongst employers, volunteers, and society as a whole.
Seeing the displacement of children and adolescents due to their wrong or bad choices isn’t the example I want to lead by. Rather, be that example to demonstrate that “yes” I made a bad choice, but a bad choice does not make me a bad person. If I had put some thought into my decisions, then I would not have made those mistakes. But, it’s too late, “I am unable to take it back,” however, I can grow from it. My purpose in life now is to give back, and help deter others from making the same mistakes I did.
The state of Colorado seems to be the least forgiving state of felons; the entire realm of felonies should be classified separately, but are grouped and stigmatized as all being a nuisance to society. These stigmas may be the foundation to many felons either falsifying the fact of having a conviction or falsifying their credentials, where even “I” have been informed of being, “over qualified.” Whom do felons go to for help or work? No one wants to hear our side; they look at the title and automatically make assumptions as to who you are as a person!
President Barack Obama signed into law on April 9, 2008, the Second Chance Act (P.L. 110-199) which was designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails. We as citizens were lead to believe it was intended to authorize federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims support, and other services that can help reduce recidivism. However, this Second Chance Act is nonexistent in the state of Colorado, evident on every application as emphasis is placed on “a felony conviction does not automatically disqualify an applicant,” but, very well guarantees the likelihood of your application not being viewed.
I’ve accepted responsibility for the crime I committed, and owe it to future generations to help deter them from possibly making the same mistake in their lives. I want to be of assistance to my country, not be on assistance. I have been told being a convicted felon makes me ineligible for assistance in the state of Colorado. Does it help or hinder the situation, single, without children, and refusing to claim epilepsy as a disability? I’m asking for assistance in finding employment in the state of Colorado, and for a second chance that will allow me to go forward and give the necessary message to our children. Though my crime had nothing to do with children, I was recently informed that my felony conviction will not allow me to be eligible to counsel children.
Confused, as a felon I am an excellent candidate for a volunteer and or mentor for children, but the title felon suggests I also pose a threat to children and society as a whole. Once again, felon is a title, it is not who I am. Thank you for taking the time to read and absorb my story. The moral of the story is felons are people to, and we should be treated as such. The only difference between me and others without the title of “felon” is I was wedged between a rock and a hard place. A movie I recommend for all Americans is “Loose Change.” Then when it comes to you having to make that choice for your family, what choice will you make? Will your government (country) be there for you as you are expected to be for your government (country)?