AUSTIN (KXAN) – In April a group of state legislators and award-winning artist, John Legend worked together to change the penalties for non-violent crimes.
Their goal is to help people with criminal records get a second chance at employment.
Goodwill’s program has helped millions of people get their lives back on track and KXAN’s Natalie Hee spoke with one woman who says their program has changed her life.
“I never thought that I would see myself in school. I never thought that I would see myself working on my goals towards a career. I just didn’t see all the harm and destruction I was leaving in my path,” Said Isa Uballe.
Isa had a rough upbringing. She became a mom at 15, battled depression and addiction, and was in and out of jail for months at a time.
“I knew that I needed to make a change not only for my daughter but for myself,” Isa said.
That’s when Isa was referred to Goodwill.
Through their tutoring programs, Isa was able to get her GED, and score an internship with their South Austin store.
“I was very reluctant at first because I didn’t think that I would be able to get a job. I didn’t think that somebody would hire me due to my background. I realized I was the only one holding myself back at this point.”
For now, Isa is back in school. She’s working on getting her bachelors and eventually her masters.
But even though Isa’s cleaned up her act, she’s still being punished for her past.
“Her employment opportunities are still limited. There are a lot of people who will not hire somebody with a criminal background,” said Traci Berry, Senior VP for Community Engagement and Education for Goodwill Central Texas.
That’s why Goodwill is working with several other organizations on the Texas Smart on Crime Coalition to help people like Isa get a second chance.
The goal is to decriminalize non-violent crimes and limit the non-disclosure for certain job and housing applications.
“You pay your price, you’ve gone to jail, the punishment has been done, let’s not punish people who have taken opportunities and continue to do so. She’s a great example of how someone can turn their life around,” said Traci Berry.