‘Should I tear up my degrees?’ Ex-felon says he can’t land job no matter how hard he tries

I am a convicted felon.

In 2010, caught up in the rise of the opioid crisis, I broke the law attempting to avoid a sickness due to withdrawal from a drug that had a grip on me. I served a sentence in the Ohio prison system.

While there, I made a decision to dedicate the rest of my life to helping people just like me; who suffered from addiction, homelessness, mental health issues.

William perry is a columbus native who currently resides on the city's south side. He is the co-founder of this must be the place, a non-profit recovery and arts program.

William Perry is a Columbus native who currently resides on the city’s south side. He is the co-founder of This Must be the Place, a non-profit recovery and arts program.

I went to college.

Earned certifications.

I did everything in my power to change my ways and set up a future full of possibility. Ultimately, I was determined by the state of Ohio to have been rehabilitated. Supposedly.

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There is one small problem.

I am unemployed. Not by lack of effort. Time and time again, I go for it. I submit my resume. Land the interview. I wow them. The employers are excited, they’ve met their guy. I tell them about my past, they agree everyone has a history. We talk about how my experiences help me relate and empathize with those whom I am about to be helping. They welcome me to the team. I get excited. I tell my family, friends, those who give me support: my dreams are coming true.

Then I’m handed off to human resources for the business end.

They too, see the background that I’ve been fully transparent about. Suddenly, contact with the company becomes more rigid, curt, downright condescending. I’ve been ghosted. Offers are rescinded. My dreams dashed. To them, I am what they see on that background check, that’s it.

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These companies have mission statements. They speak about changing lives and brighter futures. Do they believe in their own words? It doesn’t matter how much the client base will benefit from seeing someone who was once just like them and now thriving in life. Nope. I cannot work there. And they are not even nice about letting me know.

The paradox is, that which makes me remarkable for this job is the exact thing that also disqualifies me. I have been homeless, I have been addicted. Am I a role model for others who need the same help that someone gave to me? Or am I still an outcast, wearing this mark for all time?

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But it is not just me that I speak for. I personally know dozens of reformed mistake-makers who have given up on trying to find a base from which to help. These would be the best social servants that the city has seen. They now work as package handlers, delivery drivers. Not to take anything away from those who make their living from those fields, but this is a wasted opportunity.

I ask you, Columbus, should we give up on our dreams? Should I tear up my degrees, my letters of recommendations, honors I’ve received along the way?

What is a second chance, anyway?

Does it come with stipulations? In a state that is at the center of the opioid epidemic; in a state that imprisons thousands of people every year, we need to be willing to give out second chances.

Don’t people deserve to hope, and deserve to have dreams? How many no’s can one person handle before they give up, anyway? At some point we need to ask ourselves, can we actually forgive?

As long as we have a criminal justice system, why don’t you leave the justice up to them? I don’t ask my banker to do my yard work, because that is not his job. Maybe the folks in HR can leave judgments up to judges.

William Perry is a Columbus native who currently resides on the city’s south side. He is the co-founder of This Must be the Place, a non-profit recovery and arts program.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Reformed felon William Perry can’t find work no matter how hard he tries

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