‘Conviction Careers’: Non-profit works to help ex-cons get a second chance at life

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parellaWhen convicts get out of prison, it can be hard for them to get a fresh start, especially getting and holding a job. But one organization is working hard to help ex-cons get a second chance.

Liesyl Davis is a mother of two who is looking for a job, but she knows this particular job search won’t be easy for her.

“It’s very difficult to find the door that will open for me to live a life I want to live now,” Davis said.

That’s because she has a felony conviction and what comes up on her background check is hard to explain to a future employer.

“Drug addiction and coming to the point where I didn’t feel there was a way out of my addiction, other than taking my own life. So I was convicted of arson by a way of harming myself — and that’s a really difficult thing to try to explain,” she said.

Liesyl’s not alone. Jonathan Adams also needs help find a job saying.

“I’m an ex- gang member, I don’t have no college. I’m street taught, self- taught, prison taught,” he said.

Both Jonathon and Liesyl are getting help in  their job search by the non-profit organization Conviction Careers.

“We have one mission and that’s to help people with something in their background that would get in their way of employment,” executive director Dick Cinkovich said.

The good news it that when former offenders find work, the recidivism rate is cut in half.

“We try to be conservative about the numbers we use, but we know last year we probably saved tax payers over $3 million just in what we did here,” Cinkovich said.

That’s just a side benefit — the main goal is to help people find work and change lives in the process.

“The things they’ve done for me, nobody has even attempted to give me that kind of help that they have here,” Adams said.

Jennifer McCormick is another person who has been helped by the non-profit organization.

“I left just feeling full of hope and knew that this is the place, and I know that I’m going to be one of those people who got a job.”

Out of about 300 people who came through the group’s doors for help last year, Conviction Careers was able to help nearly all of them.

“You would think that people with certain crimes would never get a job, but that’s just not true. We’re always surprised by where people go to work and who’s willing to give them an opportunity,” Cinkovich said.

There are rare exceptions to their success rate.

“The girls have a term called the ‘creep factor’, and there are times when we use that — you know, ‘How was that on the creep factor?’ So we try to be careful because maybe there are guys that need a job, but they haven’t changed in their heart and they’re going to have trouble,” Cinkovich said.

But for those who have changed, they are just looking for a chance to prove it.

“There’s a lot of good potential out there with people that are trying to start over again. I think giving a second chance is a huge deal,” Davis said.