Conviction Careers: Program proving felons can turn their lives around

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LYNNWOOD — Getting a job with a criminal record can seem impossible.

But, there is one organization — the only one in the country — dedicated to helping ex-cons do just that.

“We can have somebody up and running in a week”, says Dick Cinkovich, Executive Director of Conviction Careers.

They offer people like David Kaulitzke a second chance. “In 2007, I was convicted of burglary in the first degree with sexual motivation which I was using alcohol and drugs heavily, and I broke into a house to attempt a sexual fantasy, but I didn’t go through with it,” Kaulitzke explained. He is a level 3 sex offender asking for a chance to prove himself. “I’m done getting in trouble. I grew up in prison this time. It took losing my mom on August 18th to get a whole new outlook on life.”

He’s just one of the two hundred people who come to Conviction Careers for help every year.

“We help anybody with something in their background that would inhibit them from passing a background check,” Cinkovich explains. They’ve seen a 90% success rate, no matter the crime, adding “Nine out of the ten people that came through here last year got a job.”

That’s because they help people like Francisco Castrjon-Santoyo explain their criminal history to a future employer, which isn’t an easy thing to do. “They help you build your resume like a letter of explanation explaining why I committed this crime, and the degree of the crime, Castrjon-Santoyo explains.” They also conduct fake interviews to help prepare for all kinds of questions. Cinkovich says, “In the practice interview we try to put some pressure on it. We record them which is pressure by itself, and then we ask them 16 of Forbes' most commonly asked interview questions. And then we give them a critique on what they did right and what they didn’t.”

It’s pressure needed to compete when the odds are stacked against you. But for those willing to show up and do the work, Cinkovich says it’s worth it. “We just get them to realize that their conviction’s always going to be there, it’s never going to go away and we’re going to teach them how to compete and win against everybody else in spite of that, and that’s what it takes to get a job.”

And Castrejon-Santoyo adds to that notion saying, “If nobody’s ever heard of this place, I recommend for them to come here. This will benefit them, if not the people around you and your families.”

Conviction Careers offers a second chance at no charge.

If you have a felony conviction or you would like to donate to this non-profit and help turn someone’s life around, you can do so at convictioncareers.org