Waco community members gathered this morning in support of hiring people with felonies on their record.
Fair Chance Waco tries to help ex-offenders find living wage jobs. The organization says that businesses have the opportunity to make a contribution to the community by giving reformed felons a second chance.
Fair Chance is comprised of several different groups, including Mission Waco and the Social Work students at Baylor and Tarleton State University,Fair Chance has gained support, from businesses and leaders in the community.
Last year the city of Waco, changed their guidelines on hiring felons. City Councilman Dillon Meek, spoke Saturday at the rally about the importance of looking past an applicant’s criminal past.
"Those making hiring decisions are just unaware of the implications of their actions they are not thinking through the implications of what they are doing to their city." Meek said. According to the councilman many businesses risk losing potentially talented workers. "The individuals they aren't hiring [is a loss] to their business and they are writing off someone who could be an excellent long-term employee."
Some of the speakers at the rally discussed the hardships of life after prison. Not only do some of them have difficulty securing legal employment, many struggle finding housing.
“I think giving someone a job and making sure they have access to adequate housing, it prevents crime, it’s a crime fighting tool.” Director of Legal Services at Mission Waco, Ken McKeever, believes both are key to reducing repeat offenses.
“To give someone a job and make sure they have houses, there’s study after study that show crime rates and recidivism rates go down when people get jobs after they’ve gotten out of jail.” McKeever said.
The rally offered some resources for those looking for employment, including handouts from Waco Foundational Employment Network on workforce readiness programs throughout the city. This is the second year Fair Waco has held the rally and they hope to continue to fight the stigma surrounding life after prison.