Second Chance Tucson job fair aimed at convicted felons

Second Chance Tucson job fair aimed at convicted felons

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Organizers are gearing up for next year's Second Chance Tucson job fair, now that the second annual edition of the fair is over.

The event is for convicted felons.

Past incarceration is one of the biggest obstacles to getting a job, and some studies have suggested up to 75 percent of ex-offenders are jobless up to a year after they're released, which can lead them back to crime.

The 2015 job fair started at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, but job-seekers were lined up long before that.

Convicted felons had the opportunity to meet prospective employers, who could offer them a second chance to show they can contribute to their communities.

Past incarceration can be a lifelong burden.

Julia Gomez said she has a job, but is looking for a career change.

It has been 15 years since Gomez got out of prison, but she said she has to start over proving herself.

She said there are a few things she wants prospective employers to know.

"I've grown. I've moved on and I've made better choices and I'm a good person and I'm a hard worker and I'm fun to be around," Gomez said.

Agencies, businesses and individuals provided everything from job training to resume help to haircuts in anticipation of the fair.

The day of the fair, 42 employers manned their tables at the Tucson Convention Center, nearly double the amount of last year.

"The truth of the matter is these guys made a mistake. They paid their debt to society. And, from my experience, if you give them a second chance, they actually turn into some of your more devoted employees," said Jim Click Automotive Group Recruiting Manager Brad Lancaster.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild co-hosted the event, which he has said is an anti-poverty measure.

He said when convicted felons have jobs it increases the prosperity and safety of the entire community.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Pyle said he wanted to involve the community in the effort to reverse the trend he was seeing in his own courtroom.

"I was very concerned about recidivism--that we were sending the same people back to prison time and again. And actually that was almost causing a contagion within families where family members were also going to prison over and over again," said Judge Pyle.

Danny Howe was given a second chance when he got out of prison in 2006, but, he said that was after overcoming several roadblocks.

Now he's an Old Pueblo Community Services job developer.

Howe and the non-profit agency are part of the job fair.

He extends his hand to bring others onto the path that has led to his success.

"When somebody gives you an opportunity and has faith in you, you want to succeed and make them happy. So I come to work early. I stay late. They gave me an opportunity," Howe said. "So it's not work for me and I just love what I do. I have the opportunity to be free, to be able to make money and contribute back to society and be able to provide for my family."

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