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Convicted Felon Says He's Not Free to Earn an Honest Living

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RALEIGH — Would you feel comfortable working with a convicted felon? Would your company even hire one? "No" may be the easy answer, but it comes at a price.

People looking for honest work are shut out of jobs. Some are fired. And the dilemma may keep some ex-prisoners from staying honest.

Adjusting to life on the outside is tough for former prisoners. There's a stigma, and a record, they carry with them wherever they go. And both spell trouble on a job application.

When ex-offenders fill out applications truthfully, they're often turned down for jobs. And unemployment makes it tough to get their lives back on track.

James McCrowre knows firsthand.McCrowre was released from prisonin August, after spending 14 years behind bars on a second degree rape conviction.

McCrowre was employed as a cook until his neighbors made his past public. Then he was fired.

McCrowre says he's been turned down for five other jobs since being fired. "I said could you give me a reason why? They said we don't give out that type of information, we simply didn't hire you."

As a result, McCrowre says, his bills are piling up.

Lisa Croslin helps ex-offenders re-enter society through a program called Passage Home.

Croslin says getting a job with a criminal record is tough. "It causes people to stereotype them as violent people, people who don't have any skills, who don't have any ambition to get their life back on track, which is totally wrong."

Croslin says people like McCrowre often want nothing more than an opportunity.

"Give them a chance to start to prove themselves, they will," Croslin says. "They're hard working. I think they would make any employer proud to hire them."

McCrowre seems determined to prove her right. "I'm not asking for anybody to give me anything. I'm not looking for a handout. I just want a decent chance at life."

There's no law which prevents employers from denying jobs to people with a criminal record. But many companies do have policies against hiring anyone with a record.

Many are concerned the policies encourage people to be dishonest on their applications. McCrowre says he's been truthful, and feels like he was penalized as a result.


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