I grew up in a suburban, upper middle class community. I got mixed up with drugs when I was a teen and obtained my first misdemeanor convictions as a juvenile. I continued using drugs into adulthood and at age 23 was arrested on 2 felony charges that were drug related. I later pled down to 2 misdemeanors. While I’m grateful that I do not have a felony conviction on my record, I am still burdened by my criminal record.
I have been sober for 9 ½ years. For 2 of those years, I served as the volunteer guest speaker for a pre-trial diversion program through the City of Holly Springs Superior Court, speaking to first offenders about my experience in addiction. In early recovery, I obtained my GED, and applied for college entry. At the time, I was well below the poverty income line, and so I qualified to receive the Pell Grant. However, if I had been convicted of a felony, I would not have been eligible for this fortunate opportunity to better myself through an education. I went on to graduate with a 3.9 GPA and an Associate’s Degree in Computer Information Systems Technology. While enrolled in college, I worked in retail. During the application process, I unfortunately lied on the application form for the question about having ever committed a crime. There was a chance they would run my background and find my record, and then I would likely not be hired. However, if you check the box, you are typically automatically disqualified and not even considered for employment anyways, so I had to take my chances and hope they did not run a background check. I have been in this position several times in my life since having a criminal record.
I currently work for a mobile payments technology engineering company in midtown as an IT Operations Analyst. I triage software problems and manage a database containing millions of credit cards and transactional data. When I interviewed for this position 6 years ago, I had to divulge my criminal record during the process of the required background check. However, the company has a history of hiring people in recovery and I was lucky that my past convictions were not an issue for me during the hiring process. Unfortunately, many companies are not willing to overlook this for most applicants. Even if someone’s charges aren’t relevant to the job, most employers will not hire people with any past convictions. I have several friends in long term recovery who have trouble finding employment due to their past convictions. They are contributing members of society with families to support, that can never escape the burden of their past mistakes and secure employment.
Over the course of almost a decade in recovery, I have a college degree, a successful career, a son that I can afford to raise. I spent years cleaning up my credit enough to purchase my first home, got married, have a savings account and take vacations with my family. I can do all of these regular things that are taken for granted by the average person. Despite all of my recovery success, I still feel the need to hide my past in many social and professional situations in my work environment. I feel that I can never leave this company for fear that I would have to go through the application process again, and the next company may not be so understanding. I hope the law will change so I can remove my old convictions, be free from my past mistakes and be seen for who I am today.