GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A plan to help convicted felons get back to work once they are released from prison would benefit nearly a million people in North Carolina.
President Obama is standing behind a policy called “ban the box”, which would remove the question asking about criminal history from the initial application. By doing so, President Obama believes convicted felons wouldn’t be judged right away, and would allow the employer to learn more about their character. If that person was selected as a finalist for the job, a background check would still be needed.
Some people in the East believe this is a good idea.
“I think we need to recognize that these individuals are in fact individuals. These are people first,” said Joyce Jones, director of Strive.
Strive is an organization in Pitt County that helps felons and non-felons prepare for job interviews and ultimately find employment. She said over the last three years, they have helped more than 180 felons who were released from prison. She said only around 12 percent of those they have worked with returned to prison.
“We have to be able to be a forgiving community to embrace individuals,” she said.
One of those individuals helped by Strive was Terry Streeter, who spent five years in prison after an armed robbery. Streeter said when he was released from prison in June, he applied for between 10 and 15 jobs, but had no luck.
“You shouldn’t judge a person’s present moment, or their future, off their past,” Streeter said.
Streeter now works at GK Cafe in Greenville, and with the town of Bethel. He said the program helped him get back on his feet and get used to being out in the community again.
Walter Strathy, director at the 3rd St. Community Center, said he hires felons who go through the program at Strive because they deserve a shot at a second chance.
“They’re expected to be on time, show up every day,” Strathy said. “To listen to authority.”
So far, five states have already passed laws prohibiting the box asking about criminal background on job applications for state jobs. Currently, about 40,000 people are in prison in North Carolina.
If you live in Pitt County and would like help finding a job, contact Strive here.