I am noticing that I have mellowed with age. Not that I'm old, mind you, but I am not the firecracker I used to be and I choose my battles. I don't write or speak out in protest like I used to. But never fear! I have a baby sister who has taken the baton!
Here is just a sample...
In April of 2009 I sent out a mass email regarding the difficulties and challenges of finding employment with a felony conviction. While I received a few responses, both on the County and State level, there was not one with good solid leads or answers. Over a year later and I am still unemployed But I am receiving Unemployment compensation. I was able to gain employment through one lone employment agency named Stivers while the others refused to assist me and were considerate enough to do so through written correspondence. So this morning when I sat down at my computer I remembered the letter I received from Christine M Enrigh, Director of the Bureau of Workforce Development.
A very well written letter with a few Websites, some statistics and an energized explanation/interpretation of Governor Rendell’s signing of the Economic Stimulus Package into law. In other words, the letter was tantamount to something I would line my walls with or worse. Stimulus package? What’s that have to do with me? Why does my government believe putting millions of dollars into a solid gals bucket full of holes is going to help its constituents carry the water from the well? CareerLink ? Please! Don’t get me started on that defective system. Seems the whole site is chock full of phantom jobs.
This weekend in Germantown there was a huge rally for the Democratic Party. Our president was gracious enough to attend and I am told he insisted on supporting our local politicians against wishes of others in the party. His staff even did some Facebook stalking with constant status updates of reminders and battle cries. But at the end of the day I could feel nothing but resentment. How could they ask us to rally around them? Support them? To use an urban term, “ride or die with them” when they aren’t standing by us? All of the promises and we still are nowhere. If I had my way I would call for a nationwide strike of voters! But I digress.
The reason for writing today is to ask my government; Local, State and Federal to take a long hard look at this portion of the population (ex offenders) and stop lying to us. Stop making empty promises. Stop running us around like rats in a maze. We don’t need new programs or handouts. We need new OPPRTUNITIES. REAL opportunities. Stop allowing this brand of discrimination to exist. Twenty years ago there were opportunities. You know, the days before background checks became an industry. Before fear was used as a marketing tool for businesses looking to make a buck off of background checks. I see my president on the news asking for religious tolerance towards Muslims both at home and abroad but what about the everyday, average Joe trying to change? Trying to be productive. Hell trying to eat !!! Corporations have gobbled up most of the small businesses that would give a guy or gal a break and they have become like small, individual countries in and of themselves.
Go back to school? Sure. I will. As soon as you show me a career I can be successful in (i.e. pay my rising utility bills, feed and clothe my children). I am attaching a copy of my original letter written in July of 2009 for amusement and entertainment. I hope I have given you something to think about. If not, then my government IS as cold and heartless as many believe it to be!
Thank you for your time and attention
HERE IS THE LETTER SENT LAST YEAR
___________________________________________________________________This is a letter that my baby sister sent to MORE in February of this year...
My name is Adriene Berry. I am an ex-offender living in Philadelphia. I just wanted to take a moment to express to you the difficulty I have encountered in trying to obtain employment. I am sure my situation is not uncommon but that does not make it any less frustrating. I was convicted in 2005, placed on house arrest and served out my probation. Tell me, why I am I still paying that same debt. If I sound bitter, please forgive me. I was a first time offender and I consider myself to be collateral damage in this so called war on drugs. I also realize that I made a decision that I now know will haunt me for the rest of my life. I have been trying to get back to a productive life but that seems nearly impossible. I have registered with every agency in the city. I even have some that send me out on menial jobs that no one else will take only to receive notice by mail, no less, stating that they cannot retain me because of my criminal record. I'd just like for someone to tell me what am I supposed to do to take care of my family. Do I embrace a life of crime since society has turned its back or do I become another able bodied adult trying to live off of the scraps you receive from public assistance? I don't want to do either. I just want a chance to work and support my family. It seems like the government along with corporate America wants to keep me from my rights promised me by the Constitution of the United States of America. It seems that the government is only interested in driving ex- offenders further underground. A lot of people don't want to sell drugs and steal and rob. But you know what, a lot of them do. I'm just wondering what are the options for those of us who want to live a decent life? I look through the re-entry web sites, call the numbers but I don't qualify for most of the programs. They offer training but what happens after that? If there is no one to hire you what good is the training? I can't get any federal assistance to go back to school and if I could what would I study? No federal assistance for student loans or housing. I have to try and pay rent with welfare and child support. I am not receiving welfare at this time but I guess I soon will be. Maybe we don't matter to you. Maybe we get what we deserve. Maybe we don't deserve second chances. I don't know. But I do know that I am not a bank exec who squandered away millions of dollars that did not belong to me or sell high risk loans that I knew would never see serious returns. I know I am not a big oil company who held the whole country hostage while I raked in record breaking profits. Nor am I an auto industry exec who is writing this letter from my summer home in Milan asking for assistance. I am just a simple person trying to live. Where do I fit in? If there is any assistance you may be able to offer me or even if you have a direction to point me in, please do not hesitate. I'm open to feedback, suggestions and anything else helpful. I have been in contact with Ms. Carolyn Harper who is the Director of The Mayor’s Reentry program for ex offenders. Here is a copy of her response to me sent on March 2nd. I still have not heard from anyone in that department yet.
Thank you for your letter. You are correct that it is very difficult once you have been labeled as an offender to take advantage of what society offers to non-offenders. I am pleased to see that you understand the consequences of your choices and appear to be ready to make a change. The Mayor's Office for the Reentry of Ex-offenders is dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated persons successfully reenter into society, however it is a process.
I am copying Ms. Mines, Deputy Director for Reintegration Services on this email. She can provide you with additional information on our program.
I wish you continued success in your endeavors. Have a great day.
Carolyn C. Harper
Chief of Staff
Mayor's Office for Reentry of Ex-Offenders
So now I am challenging all my Civil servants to step up to the plate. I know where you are when it’s time for re-election. Making a whole bunch of empty promises. How about this new administration? If we want to successfully integrate ex offenders into society, we must provide them with fair opportunities. There is a lot of talk but we need action.
Adriene E Berry
“A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while t holds good it has to be pursued with apostolic zeal “ Ghandi