Voting rights advocates hosting event to give convicted felons a ‘second chance’ at employment

ORLANDO, Fla. — Voting rights advocates have organized an event in Orlando to help convicted felons who have paid their debts to society find jobs.

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The event is part of an effort by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. In addition to their work restoring voting rights, they’re now trying to ban the question on job applications that asks whether a person has been convicted of a felony.

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For one day in January, Camping World Stadium will be a hub for second chances, filled with employers who are anxious to fill job openings with returning citizens.

Neil Volz says he got his felony conviction back in 2006. Once out of prison, he started on a journey towards a fresh start.

“I went out every day looking for a job,’ Volz said.

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Posted by Florida Rights Restoration Coalition on Tuesday, November 2, 2021

However, once he checked the box on an application signifying that he was a convicted felon, Volz said his chances changed.

“That box became something psychological to me,” Volz said. “You knew when you checked it, you weren’t getting an opportunity to tell someone why you would be a good member of their team.”

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To help, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is starting an initiative to “ban the box.”

“Ban the box is about how to remove these questions from applications to give people a good opportunity to at least be judged on their merit,” FRRC Executive Director Desmond Meade said.

Meade says the current crisis created by the pandemic presents the perfect opportunity.

“Florida was experiencing a crisis as far as businesses desperate for employees,” Meade said. “It gave us a great opportunity to say, hey, you need employees, let’s talk about this group of people who have been excluded for so many years because of their criminal history.”

Neil Volz says finding a job gave him a sense of purpose and meaning.

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“That idea that I was moving forward in my life and creating something new...made me feel like I was part of the community,” Volz said.

With the exception of those applying for positions with the police and fire departments, The City of Orlando has had the felony conviction box removed from its applications since 2015. However, a criminal background will still be conducted on all applicants.

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Karen Parks

Karen Parks, WFTV.com

Karen Parks is a reporter at WFTV.