Job market hard for those with criminal backgrounds
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While Austin's job market is better than most, for individuals with criminal records, finding work is harder than ever.
Kim Eberhardt received deferred adjudication and didn't see jail time for an assault charge she received years ago. She has a degree and finished her probation. However, Eberhardt said finding a job is next to impossible.
"You feel lower than low, just because you have a background,” she said. “Everybody is not trying to change, but if you’re trying to change, then it's like somebody has an anchor on you, and you can't move forward."
Incarceration rates in Texas are historically among the highest in the nation. With such a competitive job market, employment service providers like Goodwill Industries of Central Texas said the number of individuals with criminal records coming to them for help has skyrocketed.
Jerry Davis is the CEO for Goodwill Industries of Central Texas. He said 991 people with criminal records came to the nonprofit organization for employment help in 2009. In 2008, the company met just around 600 people with a criminal record.
In 2008, Travis County removed criminal history questions from applications for county jobs to give people with criminal records a better chance.
Employers still run background checks, and most won’t consider someone with a record.
Roberta Planos works for the local Goodwill. She served two years in prison for bank fraud, but has since found success with Goodwill's help.
While in prison, Planos said she saw firsthand how unemployment contributes to recidivism.
"If you don't go out there with a job, or with somebody to take you to a place where they can help you get a job, then it's a revolving door," Planos said.
Goodwill Industries of Central Texas helped around 300 people with criminal records get jobs in 2009. The organization runs background checks on all of its employees, but approaches each person with a criminal record on a case-by-case basis.
Goodwill currently has a pre-release job readiness program in place with the Del Valle Correctional Facility.