Job Search Continues To Be Difficult With Criminal Record

By Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – President Barack Obama’s phone call to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie congratulating him for giving convicted dog fighter Michael Vick a second chance has sparked controversy about its appropriateness.

But some people say it’s shed a light on the long-hidden problem of people with criminal records being unable to find work.

“In the beginning I thought, ‘He messed up,'” said Nirvana Sukhandan of Fort Worth about Vick. “So he deserved to lose just about everything he had.”

Sukhandan said experience changed her mind. She attends a job reentry class in Fort Worth along with dozens of other people with criminal records who want to reenter the workplace.

Sukhandan took a plea bargain on a credit card fraud settlement and is on probation. One of her classmates, Michael Hain, spent 24 years in jail on murder and burglary charges.

“Whether you’re a murderer or a shoplifter, in the eyes of the employer you’re the same,” Sukhandan said.

The class teaches people to negotiate the biggest hurdle in their lives: Overcoming their criminal record during the job application and interview process.

“You put ‘I Will Discuss,'” Hain said of his response on job applications to the question of prior criminal records. “I used to put burglary. You know, the lesser offense. But there’s a lot of applications I didn’t turn in.”

Hain does not have a high school diploma and finds navigating online applications difficult. He said he hopes to take GED courses to improve his reading and writing skills.

Sukhandan has a college diploma in accounting. She said it’s useless now with her prior criminal record. Sukhandan also has experience in food service and had signed a deal to be the manager of beverages in a grocery store. But her dream job quickly vanished.

“Seven or eight days later they came back and said, ‘We can’t hire you. Even though it wasn’t a conviction, we can’t do it,'” Sukhandan said. “And that’s what burned me because I’d worked so hard to make a comeback.”

Hain was laid off his janitorial job. He hasn’t found work since and is homeless.

“I’m a hard worker,” Hain said tearfully. “I need a job. I need to work.”

Many here wonder if Vick truly appreciates the second chance he has.

“I think he’s very lucky,” Sukhandan said. “Because most people, they’re not as lucky as him.”

  • Hemroidious

    I don’t cry as much as I used to but it still hurts. My grandson was 17 when he got into trouble and was convicted of burglary. He spent 24 months in jail and in shock probation. He has been home now, on probation for over a year, has got his GED and applied for assistance to go to El Centro. He can’t find any jobs that will hire him because of his record. If the employer does background search, and most now do, he doesn’t even submit an application. I cry when I see the hurt in his eyes. He’s a good kid that made a mistake. He knows that this will be the way it is for the rest of his life and I do too.

  • MikeB

    As an employer with a job opening for which two equally qualified persons apply and one has a criminal record while the other has never committed a crime, if I decide to give the person with a criminal record a “second chance” then am I not penalizing the person who has played by the rules all of their life? Life is a series of choices and those choices have consequences. Making right choices should be rewarded but “second chance” programs penalize those who make right choices.

    • Mike Mac

      For those without sin may cast the first stone. Think about that you Moron!

    • Hemroidious

      If two applicants are equally qualified that should be the basis that an employer makes a decision on. It is not the employer’s position and should never be, to “reward one person over another one” or penalize another for any reason. To reject a person out right penalizes the employer also because they may loose a good person that is thankful to get a job.

    • Thank God ! for Second Chance's

      Have you ever sat down and thought about all the second chance that you have receive. If God gave you what you really deserve, where would you be. Nobody walking the face of the earth is perfect. That why God gives grace and mercy.

  • Hemroidious

    And every one, always makes the right choice and no one ever makes a mistake. Thus, felons won’t “play by the rules” the rest of their lives? Convicted Felons that do their time and pay for their crime don’t deserve a second chance? I guess their only option is to return to crime.

  • Shawn

    I think if you have done your time and have not been in any trouble in 10 years. Then it should fall off your records,unless you put yourself in troulbe again then it should be pulled. But for good people like me I haven’t been in no trouble or drink nor do I smoke and still im being judged for something 13 years ago. How are we to take care of our families. I wish thay pass a law where a job can’t reject you if it was 7 years passed.

  • Hemroidious

    Shawn, I thinks that is a great idea. I met a lot of young men that, like my grandson, simply made a mistake due to being young and immature. All people change and at some point with no more trouble the record should be removed. I also met some adults that had the money to have their record expunged. Hang in there and good luck.

    • Shawn

      Thank You Hemroidious, I’m just wanting the white house to pass a bill that if you have been convected but its 7 years ago that it should not be pulled. Then there will be more people will be working and spending money. Not only that thay would be able to take care of their families. I pray that I find a job cause unemployment is’nt enought to pay my bills. WE THE PEOPLE NEED HELP!!!!!!

  • fair and balanced

    Now that 17 year olds are treated as adults in Texas, we will see much more hopelessness………….the follies of youth will live forever unless the situation is reversed for the benefit of all society.

  • Left Holding the Bag!!

    I married a man who convinced me to open a company in my name. He decided we need to open even more branches of the company and grew us too fast too quickly. He ran the company and made all the decisions. He decided that taxes could wait and other things needed to be paid first. As I began challenging him to his decisions and trying to plead with him that the taxes needed to be paid, I was met with verbal and physical retaliation from him. I was eventually arrested and charged with FAILURE TO PAY TAXES, since the company was in my name. He became increasingly violent with me and was arrested for Domestic Violence. Six weeks later he died and when I went to trial, because I had no priors I was convinced by my attorney to plead guilty, get probabtion and avoid going to Prison. I was the perfect Felon on probation. I was never in trouble, passed any drug test they gave me, never went anywhere without a travel pass. I completed my 5 years of Probation, did my best to pull the company out of a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reorganization, and kept the business for 4 years after his death but finally closed the doors in 2008. I have statements from former employees, vendors and customers who were willing and still willing to testify that I was not the one that created this record, I just got left holding the bag.

    I struggle everyday trying to find a job that does not say, “MUST BE ABLE TO PASS A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK”. I have been open and honest about my record and explained the situation, and have been continually passed over. I have 12 years of Office Management, Accounts Payable, Payroll, Customer Service background. I just want someone to give me a chance to prove they can trust me and I am worthy of a job.

  • Glen Mcbeth

    I feel sorry for people with a criminal record.

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