I was recently invited to participate in a survey that was focused on convicted felons re-entering society and the workplace. So I have felt the need to share my opinions on this issue, which is very sensitive to myself and many people like me, who have in the past made mistakes and have criminal convictions.
In past articles I have written about working in the bar/tavern business as a manager, bar tender, bouncer, cook etc. The experience ones learns from working in the bar business is priceless, just to give a few examples you learn to think quickly, analyze situations, your always paying attention to your surroundings, you meet folks from all different backgrounds from convicted felons to preachers, attorneys, teachers, law enforcement etc.
Your probably asking yourself what does this have to do with background checks. Well, the reason I mention working in the bar business is very simple prior to entering this field of work I was never in trouble with the “law” and had no criminal background. However, that would soon change. I will not go into any details about my convictions, but I will tell you they are definitely life changing and well over 10 years old, but none the less they will follow me the rest of my life.
The bar/taverns I worked in were not for faint of heart, they were some rough places and either you were tough or you would get hurt. So, as a bartender or bouncer you are the middle man in every confrontation and well this is not an ideal situation to be in when the fights start the police always show up and well, someone will be arrested and or issued a summons/citation to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction. Take it from me when you enter the legal system the convictions will haunt you the rest of your life.
My past convictions are not the point of this article and sometime in the near future I will share with you all, some of my experiences with the legal system and criminal convictions.
I could right a book on this topic and at this time will only share with you in short form some of my views pertaining to people with criminal convictions and their rights to lawful employment free from discrimination and the right to pursue their goals and dreams as they see fit or as society allows.
On with the article!
I ask that anyone who may read this article to share your comments, thoughts or views so we may all have a better understanding of our stance as a society on this very sensitive issue. I will be writing questions and answers from my views formatted as such below.
1) In Ohio a criminal conviction stays with you all of your life.
Answer: Yes, However, depending on the severity of the crime you may file to have the record sealed. In order to be eligible you must not have been convicted of more then one crime.
Example: If John was convicted of domestic violence and then an assault he would not be eligible to have the record sealed.
If John was only convicted for domestic violence he would be eligible to have the record sealed after one year for misdemeanors and three years for felonies. How ever most violent crimes cannot be expunged.
2) When a person is released from probation and or a prison sentence is his record sealed?
Answer: No, the criminal conviction will stay with that person all their life in Ohio unless he/she meets the requirements to have the record sealed. However, after 10 years thou the record not sealed it cannot be used against you by employers. This is a catch twenty two.
When 10 years has passed the record is not to be used against you however, it stills shows up on your background checks with potential employers. It is up to the employers discretion if you will be hired.
I personally believe that when a person serves their time for the offense they have committed that the record should be sealed. When you pay your debt I do not believe you should be labeled your entire life, people make mistakes and sometimes more then one mistake and as a society I believe we are to harsh on people who have made mistakes this depends on the severity of the crime.
3) Do people with convictions have to disclose this information to employers.
Answer: Yes, if they do not inform the potential employer via the application that they have criminal convictions this is an automatic disqualification for employment and you can be terminated if found out at a later date other then the date of hire.
4) How hard is it for a person with a criminal record to find lawful employment and become a productive citizen in our society?
Answer: Depending on severity of the crime or crimes, it can be very difficult. In today’s society almost every employer is doing background checks & credit checks on potential candidates and there is more likely a chance the person without the criminal convictions will land the job prior to the candidate with convictions.
In my opinion again depending on the job requirements this is a discrimination issue which needs to be addressed by our elected leaders because a lot of good candidates are left on the side lines for some foolish acts they committed when they were younger.
Example: If you have been convicted of child abuse then you will not land a job working in social services or with children, there is to much liability in today’s job market.
5) You mention credit checks in your answer on question 4. What does credit have to do with your potential employers?
Answer: In today’s job market employers are looking for candidates that have no blemishes on their credit reports because, they believe if you are not responsible to pay your bills then you will most likely not be responsible for the position you are being hired to perform.
My opinion on this is simple if you have a criminal conviction it is very difficult to find employment and if you are unable to work because of your convictions, then you most obviously will not be able to pay your bills and you will be denied employment in most cases because of poor credit. Again this issue must be addressed by our elected officials at state and federal levels too many good folks who made mistakes in the past are being denied lawful employment and in this writers opinion are being discriminated against.
This issue is very serious many people, families, neighbor hoods are effected when people are unable gain lawful employment. When you are unable to work you end up on welfare, in government housing, etc. You become a burden on the system and in most cases become habitual offenders.
6) What is a convicted felon to do when they are unable to find lawful employment?
Answer: In major cities across Ohio, there are different groups available in assisting convicted felons obtain employment and there are several companies who will give people a second chance at gaining lawful employment and again it depends on severity of the crimes. Please check with your local Jobs and Family services and they can direct you.
7) Can a convicted felon become a productive citizen once released from prison or post community probation?
Answer: Yes! In my opinion all people stumble and fall from time to time and get caught up with the wrong crowds and develop poor attitudes towards society. This is a social issue that we must address in cities, towns, states alike if we fail to work to the common good of man are society will crumble, history proves that. The movies, music and different groups cause many people to get caught with the wrong ideology. Ladies and gentlemen this is America the land of the free and home of the brave, we all deserve a second chance and in some cases again depending on circumstances a third chance. But, remember no two cases are alike.
8) You mention you have a criminal conviction, how has this effected you personally?
Answer: Well, after leaving the bar business I went into construction and I was a construction supervisor over seeing the building of new homes and this is one industry where employers are not to concerned with felony convictions, again depending on severity of the conviction. However, after being laid off from construction when the housing bubble started it was very difficult to find employment their was so many folks looking for work that if you had a blemish on your background you would not get the job.
Personally my conviction has been very difficult and emotional for my family and I. It is often very embarrassing to openly discuss this conviction with other people and I am usually very hesitant to willingly do a background check even thou my conviction is over 10 years old. As you know from my previous articles I am a father of five beautiful children and I like to assist them with sports and I find it very difficult when the sports league do background checks and openly see my conviction, thou the time of the conviction does not disbar me from assisting.
9) In your opinion what causes people to become habitual offenders?
Answer: Well, in my opinion it is the system it self that needs to be revamped, when someone is released from prison or post community probation it is very difficult to find employment and often these people will go out and commit crimes over and over again. These people who are released from their sentences are in need of proper education and guidance. It is a snowball effect and you will continue to a part of the system because you are not able to find lawful employment in most cases.
10) Would you hire a convicted felon to work for you?
Answer: Yes, in my opinion as I stated previously all people should be given a second chance. In my religious studies Christ teaches us to not judge your fellow man and by not doing so we will not be judged. However, in our society it doesn’t work that way and again all situations are different.
11) What would you do to assist felons from gaining lawful employment?
Answer: I believe education is very important and I continue my education in many fields that interest me. As far as assisting other convicted felons I think that we as a society need to create programs not only to educate convicted felons in different fields, but also educating the employers. If we create programs to educate employees and employers we will see our poverty levels and government assistance decrease over time. There are many options available to assist employers in hiring convicted felons, for example we could offer tax breaks, or similar programs to help people with finding lawful employment.
12) What effect do felons have on the local economies in your opinion?
Answer: Well, again what we have is younger people committing crimes and becoming sponges to the system, meaning they often end up at food bank, on welfare living in government housing and this effects the entire community. If these people are not working then the local governments are not collecting tax revenue and they are unable to offer more services to the tax paying citizen, such as more police, firefighters, city employees, parks, community out reach programs etc. The entire community is effected when convicted felons are not employed and only run the risk of the felon becoming a habitual criminal.
13) In your opinion what causes people to commit crimes?
Answer: I believe again as a society we really need to regulate the entertainment industry, not that I am for more regulation but I believe that if children continue to watch the types of programs and music videos that are being aired daily we will continue to see a rise in crime.
They have made it seem cool via Hollywood to do drugs, drink alcohol be part of a gang and so forth. As long as this continues we will be plagued with repeat offenders. Also it is my opinion that drugs and alcohol play a major factor with crime in our society. We really need to create some programs and introduce them to children in schools and teach them the effects of drugs and alcohol not only for their sakes but their families.
I also believe that a lot of habitual offenders may have mental illness and with the proper evaluations and programs these people can be rehabilitated to become productive citizens in our communities.
14) What role in your opinion do families play in young adults becoming habitual offenders?
Answer: Well, if you look at the statistics you will find that most crimes are committed when alcohol and drugs are involved and if a young man or women is drinking a lot and doing drugs someone close to them will know and in my opinion they need to reach out and attempt to help that person. If they fail to assist a family member in need of help that person will only become a statistic and become a part of the system and then it will be up to the courts and community groups to foot the bill to help recondition the offender.
15) Statistics show that most habitual offenders come from broken homes, what is your opinion?
Answer: I do believe you become the environment you were raised in, so if someone grows up in a family that is abusive and is filled with domestic violence then you most likely will grow to be an angry man or women and have a difficult time dealing with society. Also I believe that when there is turmoil in the home it will show in your child’s school work and it is the duty of the schools to report these abusive behaviors to appropriate authorities so we do not end up with more habitual offenders.
If a child grows up with alcohol and drugs in their environment they will most likely pick up the bad habits of their parents of guardians. We are a product of our environment.
16) What role do you believe prisons have in our society?
Answer: It is my opinion that prisons were built to hold serious offenders such as rapist, murders, drug dealers and other violent offenders. I do not believe we should lock everyone up who commit’s a crime. I believe that most people can be rehabilitated to perform to norm of society with proper education and programs.
Well thanks for taking the time to read this article which in my opinion is very important to our society. I limited my answers and possibly at a later date will go into much more detail pertaining to the issues that effect people with criminal convictions.
I would kindly ask you the reader to leave your comments and share your thoughts with all of us on this issue. We appreciate your opinions and until the next time
Good day to all
Reverend Donald Czerwinski
A Yahoo Contributor www.associatedcontent.com/ Donald Czerwinski
PS. If you are looking for a public speaker to discuss and tell their story please feel free to contact me.