- Faith & Family
It’s tough for Blacks in Miami-Dade County to find work these days as an unemployment rate of 15.4 percent confirms. But when you’re an ex-felon, overcoming the added obstacles and stigma make it that nearly impossible to secure a steady job or to become re-acclimated into society. In order to address their unique struggles and to help ex-felons get on the right track, the City of Miami mayor’s office recently organized a Specialized Recruitment Fair (SRF) at Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, 1323 NW 54th Street. The fair, which was exclusively for ex-offenders, focused on restoring civil rights and helping offenders to gain employment.
“I really believe that people should have a second chance,” said Tomas P. Regalado, 64, City of Miami mayor. “This is all about doing the right thing. There are a lot of people that are desperate and want a job. If we can only save five, 10, or 20 people, then we will be satisfied.”
About 50 ex-offenders showed up hoping for an opportunity to better their lives.
“It has been really tough for us because by being in prison four times it is a difficult thing for me to be able to find employment,” said Calvin Milbry, 48, an ex-offender who is now homeless. “Case workers are trying to do the best that they can but it seems like nothing happens. With the jobs situation I really don’t know what will happen today but I am staying positive.”
Regalado added that more Fairs will be held in other parts of the City including Wynwood, Overtown and Little Haiti.
“It is a myth that all of the problems are only in the Black community,” he said. “There are huge problems in the Hispanic community too. A lot of people make mistakes and some want to do the right thing now.”
City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, 44, District 5, said some should considering going into business for themselves.
“Our community has to be sensitive to this,” she said. “I can’t think of one person, even in a powerful position, that doesn’t have at least one person in their family that has been to jail. The reality is that some some people will never begin to accept ex-convicts. We have to begin to create entrepreneurs. We have to start creating our own businesses so we don’t have to necessarily rely on somebody accepting us.”
Ex-offenders were able to have one-on-one sessions with advisors to help them in restoring their right to vote as well. Marcus Millionder, 39, an ex-offender from Overtown, said he was very optimistic.
“To be truthful anything is beneficial to someone that wants to take a chance,” he said. “I think that this is a great thing that is happening in our community.”
In Florida, civil rights are not automatically restored to a convicted felon. Ex-felons must wait either five or seven years, depending on the nature of the crime committed and then apply to have their rights restored. It is estimated that 100,000 people are currently impacted by the law.
“The more people that are able to participate in elections the better the government is,” Regalado added.
By Randy Grice