New state law gives ex offenders hope for landing a job

Published: Jan. 23, 2014 at 10:59 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2014 at 11:02 PM EST
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An attorney from the Georgia Justice Program speaks about Georgia's Record Restriction laws...
An attorney from the Georgia Justice Program speaks about Georgia's Record Restriction laws during the Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record Workshop at Albany Tech Monday
Frankie Scott, Albany Resident
Frankie Scott, Albany Resident
Dr. Charles Ochie, Sr., Albany Second Chance Founder & CEO
Dr. Charles Ochie, Sr., Albany Second Chance Founder & CEO
Vincent Alston, Workforce 44 Case Manager
Vincent Alston, Workforce 44 Case Manager

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A new state law is a beacon of hope for job seekers with a criminal history.

Albany Second Chance hosted workshops for ex-offenders Monday at Albany Technical College and Albany State University.  Speakers from the Georgia Justice Project said state is the second worst in the nation for barriers that keep ex-offenders from finding jobs, but they hope the Record Restriction Law will help.

Many of the hundreds of people crammed together in the Albany Tech Kirkland Conference Center were seeking a new beginning.

"Who doesn't wish they could go back and make it right, you know?  But it is what it is," said Frankie Scott, Albany Resident.  He, like many others at the Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record workshop, has a criminal history.

"I'm not going back.  I got a wife and six kids. know, it keeps my head up but it gets hard," he said.

He was convicted of two felonies more than a decade ago; one for cocaine possession and another for forgery.  "You get rehabilitated, but you're still persecuted."

Off probation since 2010, Scott hasn't found a job in over three years because of his crimes.

"We know every year about 400 people return to Dougherty County from prison from federal and states.  And when they return, they face several issues.  And employment is one of them," said Dr. Charles Ochie, Albany Second Chance Founder & CEO.

Those with misdemeanor charges face similar challenges.

"I have no luck whatsoever.  Nobody calls back.  Just no luck," said Kasheem Dawson, Albany Resident. Dawson moved to Albany 6 months ago from the Virgin Islands, and hasn't been able to find work.

But organizers say Georgia's Record Restriction Act implemented last July could help offenders.  "If they come back six months without a job, most of them will go back to prison again, 'cause an idle man is a devil's workshop," said Dr. Oachie.

People with less serious convictions can file an application with the District Attorney to prevent employers from seeing past charges.

"One of the key things that one of the individuals was talking about was banning the box.  That little box when you check off offender that plays a big role here in the city of Albany, as well as the state of Georgia," said Vincent Alston, Workforce 44 Case Manager.

He said employers often won't follow up with applicants who check the box, or are found to have a criminal past.  And removing that option, he said, could allow employers to see the potential of each applicant.  "But look at what they're doing now.  Look at the credentials they obtained.  Look at the opportunity and the skills and the experience they can offer your company."

Scott and others with felonies can't apply and face a tough road to care for their children.  "So as long as I keep them...keep involving myself in their life, they'll turn out better than I did, and that's my goal,"  he said.

But steady work, some say, is the final phase of rehabilitation.

During the workshop, a speaker with the Criminal Justice Project said 3.7 Million Georgians have criminal histories.  They also said 1 in 13 individuals are under correctional control in Georgia, compared with the national average of 1 in 33.

Albany Second Chance says community support will play a major role in rehabilitating offenders.

For more information on the state record restriction laws, click here.  Albany Second Chance is located at 521 Pine Ave, and can be reached at (229)883-3440.

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