My name is Danielle and I am a 46-year-old woman from Florida. I have two children and three grandchildren. Having two non-violent felony charges on my record has crushed my ability to obtain decent housing and receive a livable wage.
My early-to-mid thirties proved to be a difficult time in my life. After escaping an abusive relationship, I was working full time and raising two children while being undiagnosed with bipolar disorder. I turned to unconventional methods of help and became wrapped up in a world of chaos. This led to my first felony charge.
After a car accident and an arrest, this tough love lesson was what I needed to turn my life around. I received five years of probation, which I completed in two years, and was released early. I was reassured that this offense would not show up anywhere in my background and that it would drop off my record after seven years. As it turns out, that was not the case.
In 2005, I was wrongly convicted of another felony because of my background. I fought this charge, but because I was unaware of the legal process, the cards were stacked against me. Through no fault of my own, I again received five years of probation, which I completed early. The same promise was given to me and I again believed it.
Twelve years later, I find myself having to work temporary or low paying jobs because they don't require background checks. It is hard to survive on unstable, minimum wage jobs. Throughout the years I have applied for jobs that I am clearly qualified for, and sometimes over-qualified for, only to be turned away. I even find it hard to find livable housing. After I comply with background checks, I have been frequently turned away. I have been left with no options and am forced to live in poor conditions.
I know there are others out there going through the same struggle, and that is why I decided to use the Lobbyists 4 Good platform. The campaign I started will remove the "convicted of a felony box" from job applications in Florida and force employers to look at your qualifications, not your criminal background.
Many other states and cities throughout the country have implemented these policies and have seen positive benefits. Please donate to the Florida Prison Reentry Campaign and help us be free and part of society again.
About prisoner reentry
The United States currently has more people in prison than any other nation on Earth. In fact, nearly 25% of all prisoners in the world are held in American jails.
Naturally, this translates to a large number of Americans who are ex-felons, leaving prison behind to resume their normal lives. In total, there are a little over 20 million people in the United States who have a current or prior felony conviction.
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The end of one’s prison sentence or probation should mark the beginning of a new lease on life, free of criminal activity or the stigma that comes from having a criminal history. If states like Florida continue to punish felons with discriminatory employment policies after they have served their time, then they are only encouraging repeat offenses, and discouraging a complete reentry by felons into society.
The lack of employment for ex-felons has a real, material toll on both those with a criminal past and the state itself. Thousands of people who were attempting to rightfully re-enter society after being convicted of a felony were sent to prison because they were unable to find a job in time. While this cannot be solely blamed on Florida law, there’s no doubt that policies like check-box felony admission and at-will termination had a hand in sending people who had committed no additional crimes back to prison.
Ex-felons across the nation are just as capable of being productive and creative members of society as everyone else, and often bring a unique perspective to any conversation or work environment. Because of check-box application processes, the untapped potential of millions of citizens is being denied the same right to work that most of us take for granted. America is a land of second chances, and ex-felon employment policies are hindering ex-felons a shot at a second chance as long as they remain on the books.
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