Conviction Careers: Special program helps ex-cons get new careers

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LYNNWOOD — Second chances can be hard to come by, especially if you have a criminal record, but one organization in Lynnwood is helping give hundreds of people just that — a second chance at life!

“I would drive around and I’d try to find a job and when I was not successful I turned to what I know the most which is I know who I can call, how I can call them and where I can go to get the money and what I needed,” says Marianne Martinez-Evans. It’s a story all too familiar for people in and out of prison, but Evans broke the cycle with the help of an organization called Conviction Careers.

Dick Cinkovich is the Executive Director and says, “We are here to help people who have something in their background that would hinder their ability to get a job.” It’s the hurdle that thousands of convicted felons face when talking to a potential employer.

Evans continues, “How do I explain this is what I’ve done for the last ten years of my life? ‘Well, did you have a job?’ 'Yes.' ‘Where were you working’? “Uh, in the prison and they’re like, 'Oh, thank you, we’ll give you a call back.'”

Cinkovich adds, “We meet with everybody to those who have misdemeanor crimes to people who have been in prison for 25 years.”

And finding employers who are willing to take on former felons is half the battle.

Dr. Jean Hernandez is President of Edmonds Community College and says, “I believe that every single individual should have a second chance.” The college has just kicked off a brand new program to help people transition from prison life to college life called “Next Steps.”

“Community colleges really are the places where we can start to open up doors for members of our community regardless of their background,” explains Hernandez.

And one of their re-entry specialists is a former client of Conviction Careers. “The program itself is because I have a background, I have a criminal background and so I’ve done time, but to be able to be put in place, and help others and go through the things that I had to stumble through, I really like that opportunity,” explains Russell Dorsey.

For many, programs like these are a win-win, saving the state and community millions. “Even using conservative numbers, we’ve saved the taxpayers over ten million dollars in five years,” Cinkovich explains.

But for others, the gift of a second chance is priceless. Evans adds, “I am employed, I have a bank account, even after what I’ve got, my charges. I have a card. I have life on life’s terms. I’m a mother, a grandmother, a woman in society and I get to help others. And I get to make amends to those people and this community that I was most offensive too.”

Conviction Careers does not charge for their services, but are in need of help. They have just entered the sixth year of their organization and are required by the IRS to raise a certain amount of money.

You can donate to their “Go Fund Me” page by going to convictioncareers.org

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