The Life of Crime: Path to employment
YAKIMA, Wash.- "You don't have a place to live, you have no job, you really don't know what to do. You knew you were destined to come back here," said Coni Morris, a re-offender at the Yakima County Jail.
Picture this: You just got released from jail and you're ready to turn your life around. You apply for dozens of entry levels jobs thinking you are qualified, and then you notice a pattern.
"I was getting turned down every place I was going because I was a felon. That was the first time it was ever difficult for me," said Will King, an ex-felon.
Shot down application after application, King turned back to the way he knew how to make fast money.
"My mindset was to get money. I went out and did something that I shouldn't have been doing and got myself in trouble again, and I went back to prison for 14 months," said King.
Now, released again, he decided to not check the felony box on his application and landed a job at a Boeing affiliate company. He worked there for a year until the company did another background check on all the employees. They saw his record, and fired him.
"It was disheartening. I really liked that job, I got along good with everybody, I didn't cause any problems on the job, all I wanted to do is work. I felt like I proved myself and I felt like I should've been able to at least keep my job," said King.
One in three people in the U.S. have a criminal background, and studies have found even a year after them being released, 60 percent are still unemployed.
Like King, there are many others that are stuck between being employed or re-offending. Lieutenant Christina Freeburg has worked at the Yakima County Jail for 18 years, and says in this town, it's not hard to end back up where you first started.
"We have a big gang problem in Yakima County, and I also think that we have a big drug problem in Yakima County. That contributes to a lot of their issues," said Freeburg.
"I ended up going to prison, I did a month in prison and I got out, I had a place lined up to live and it didn't come through the way I was planning on it. I got out and had no where to go, and old habits die hard I guess. People are different when they are sober, and want to make a change," said Joseph Vesek, a re-offender at the Yakima County Jail.
United States Sentencing Commission put together a study on how many federal offenders re-offended within eight years of them being released for their first crime. They found that nearly half of those offenders were rearrested for either a new crime or for violating their probation or release conditions.
"They say they want you to get out there, get a job, and do what's right, then when you get a job they want to kick you to the curb. If you don't give them a job, what do you think they're going to do? They're going to go back out there and commit a crime again in order to survive. Sometimes people need to take a chance on people and give them an opportunity," said King.