Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Former Inmates Need Help in Getting a Second Chance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Former Inmates Need Help in Getting a Second Chance

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

Last week, Debra Holcomb showed up at the Beaver Street Enterprise Center with a thin resume and crossed fingers.

She wants a job so badly, she said, she didn't mind me mentioning her name in a column - along with a part of her resume that she left off.

That part being the six months she spent in jail for forgery.

"I just got caught up [with the wrong people]," said Holcomb, who joined a number of other job-seekers at a small jobs fair at the center.

"I'm looking for light industrial work, or dietary work," she said.

"All I want is a chance to prove myself."

Give Holcomb credit for being courageous.

Not many people who have been incarcerated are willing to say so outright. Doing so could mean seeing an interviewer's smile crumple into a downcast gaze. It means seeing the confidence that they mustered just to go out and look for a job turn into despair.

But at this community job fair, which was sponsored by the City Rescue Mission, Clara White Mission, Community Connections, Goodwill Job Junction and Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, Holcomb's candor could wind up working out for her.

While a number of employers said that there wasn't much work available for anyone right now because of the dismal economy, some agencies, such as the local electrical workers union, were willing to consider ex-offenders for apprenticeships and the like.

Still, some also admitted that hiring ex-offenders could still prove daunting.

A representative from the Hyatt hotel downtown, for example, said someone with even a misdemeanor conviction wouldn't be considered unless he had been crime-free for seven years. That's because many misdemeanors involve petty theft, and many of the jobs involve cleaning guest rooms.

And a representative of Randstad, a global staffing agency, said it can't consider ex-felons because its client companies won't hire them.

Yet, all is not lost - if people like Holcomb can find someone with a respected voice and connections to vouch for them. …

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