Mar 4, 2010

"Job fair for convicted felons draws thousands, ties up traffic"

(Check out the video here)

by Alex Sanz / 11 News

Posted on March 3, 2010 at 5:43 PM
Updated yesterday at 7:11 PM
HOUSTON – A job fair for convicted felons drew an over-capacity crowd to the United Way Building and tied up traffic for hours on Waugh Drive near Downtown Houston.

Federal stimulus dollars made The Road to Re-entry Job Fair possible. It was meant to give convicted felons job placement skills and training. Organizers expected a crowd of several hundred people. Instead, more than 3,000 showed up by late Wednesday afternoon.

“I'm an ex-con and that's the main thing that's holding me back,” said Lavell Byrd, who went to the job fair searching for an opportunity.

Byrd said he last had a full-time job in December when he worked as a bell ringer for The Salvation Army.

"It's a very, very, very hard thing,” he said. “That people still look at what you did in the past and not what you can do in the future."

Community activist Quannel X told 11 News that people began to line up as early as 8 a.m.

“That says that they want to work,” he said. “That they want to be productive. They just want a chance at employment and they don't want their history to stop them from having that chance."

Don Jones, the president and general manager of Certified Traffic & Flagger Solutions of Texas, said unlike some employers, he thinks it’s a good idea to hire convicted felons.

“Everybody deserves a second chance,” he said “I'm a second-chance company. I believe that anybody, once they've been incarcerated, they've done something, we need to give them a second chance."

Because of the large turnout, organizers said they planned to hold another job fair at a bigger venue, possibly the George R. Brown Convention Center in Downtown Houston.