Dear Editor:

The articles in the newspapers have been very interesting, informative and even pleasant most times. Many stories have highlighted the injustices done to blacks when it comes to employment, housing, higher-paying jobs and the like.

This is great! However, what this very concerned and frustrated writer is wondering is what is being done and who is moving forward in rectifying such disparities and hardships against the vulnerable class of ex-offenders.
Particularly, what efforts in Broward County are being made to assist ex-offenders who are trying to help themselves stay out of trouble and re-enter society successfully through the employment and social services they need in order to stay out of the revolving doors of jails and prisons?

This question is one which has gone unseen and unanswered for too long; at least in Broward County. It seems that not many people (if any at all) are asking such questions in an open forum, on their jobs, or in everyday life to anyone and everyone who cares to listen. Yet, this question is one of the most important that should be asked every day, and pushed upon every day until there is a change from today’s dilemma of too many black men not being able to rise above the major dilemma of unemployment, incarceration and re-incarceration.

Where are all the black leaders to advocate for changes on behalf of this disadvantaged and unprotected class of human beings who are trying to help themselves, to no avail?

Florida Statute 112.011 states that a person shall not be disqualified from employment by the state or any of its agencies or political subdivisions, or any municipality solely because of a prior conviction for a crime, unless the crime was directly related to the position of employment sought.

This statute should help to serve as protection against blatant discrimination against ex-offenders.  However, this writer does not know of one black leader or attorney who has come forward to challenge denial of state or city employment to qualified ex-offenders who have not been in any new trouble and who are trying to get their lives back on track. 

Too many ex-offenders are being discriminated against for crimes committed 10, 15 and even 20 years ago. Why?  Why is society allowing this type of discrimination, especially when this discrimination is only placing society in more danger by not allowing these guys to work.

In the State of Illinois, Danny Davis, a state legislator, was on the cover of Essence magazine, vowing that he is on a national campaign for ex-offenders.  This writer wonders why no more of this campaigning exists on ex-offenders’ behalf; especially in Florida, where the need is so desperate and yet so abandoned.

This author has researched other states and their employers, and many of them know what it takes to promote a more healthy, safe and productive society.  Thus, at least in those states, die-cutting companies, restaurants, moving companies and many others are giving ex-offenders a chance to work and take care of their children while being productive. Society must insist that Florida does more to make its citizens safe and society more productive by giving ex-offenders a chance to become employed and re-enter society successfully.

Nikki Elliott, Senior Paralegal
Legal Aid Service, Inc. of Broward County