Five Things Felons Need to Know

Welcome back Reader!

Today, I’ve got a short list of five things that felons should know after their conviction.

This isn’t a hate post either, I am the Friendly Felon after all – so you’re in store for some nifty information that is really going to give you hope and help you get back on track.

That’s what I’m all about here – finding those little rays of hope for a better life and growing that into a goal you can reach. Just thought I’d mention that for the newcomers – because they might not have known what they were getting themselves into here. (Partly why Enigma is part of my chosen moniker)

Anyway, without further ado, I present my newest list:

Felons Should Know:

1. We can get the majority of our civil rights back – and some states even allow restoration of rights immediately after you finish your last day locked up or once you get released from whatever level supervision you might be on. This includes voting, earning a public office seat in a governmental body, and more. Some rights will take more time than others, and every state is different in their limits, but ultimately – the rights are available again once you’ve kept yourself out of trouble for a while. Not a bad bargain really.

2. We can gain legal certificates that help us get jobs. First, there is a federal bonding program that is available for all felons in every state across the entire nation. There are also some states that offer a ‘Certificate of Good Conduct’, or a ‘Certificate of Relief from Disability’. Both of these help with getting a job, and one can even help you get a professional license. You’ll have to earn these with a lot of research and a lot of action – but it is completely possible!

3. We can do anything we put our minds to! If you’re a felon that wants to go to college, there’s not much that can stop you. Sex convictions aside, most felons – including drug-related convictions (might have to wait for financial aid to be allowed again, but otherwise chances of acceptance aren’t terrible)- can attend college without hassle. I’ve been accepted numerous times into various colleges for interior design, art, beauty school, and psychology. I might have only stuck with one of these choices, but all of them were willing to work with me regardless of my background. The payment of the tuition is the biggest hassle here, but most convictions can apply within just a few years of completion of your sentence.

4. We need to be honest about our backgrounds with employers. When you hide it, you’re just wasting time (yours and the employers to be honest). There might be restrictions in various states as to how far back the background search can go – but in many cases, a simple background search performed online will bring up every single conviction under your name. It is a much better idea to be honest, and spend more time learning how to prove you’re a good employee to potential employers. (Character references, volunteer experiences, letters from probation, parole, etc, anything and everything that gives ‘proof’ of a good worker).

5. We are worth the effort it takes to overcome our obstacles. Just because we made a mistake doesn’t mean that our lives have to be over or that we’re doomed to a life inside an institution or on the ‘wrong side’ of the street. Of course, if you want to continue the life that brought you to this point – that’s up to you. Personally, I recommend picking the important pieces of yourself up and building a better life – it’s the most difficult thing to do – but that just means it will be that much more meaningful when you accomplish your goals.

So, that concludes my list for the day – I hope you like it and if you want more information about how to overcome your conviction related obstacles – please purchase a copy of my Guide to Life After a Felony – available in print on Microcosm and on just about every eBook retailer out there – click here for the Kindle edition.

If you want some personalized research done for your situation – I offer that on Fiverr – click on the Hire Aza link at the top of the page – I’m here for you to help you meet your goals and dreams. It’s what I do – seriously, it’s all I think about. Keep going strong everyone! Rise above!

Love and Peace,
Aza (@aza_enigma Twitter)

Advertisements

Twitter Interview #1 – Jess T.

I’ve finally been using my Twitter account instead of ignoring it and I made an awesome new friend on it this week. It feels pretty awesome to know that there are people in the same situation that want to help others who are still struggling with their recovery in life. She’s decided to share a little of her story about her conviction and her progress with her recovery from those darker days.

Are you ready to read her interview? I know it touched my heart and reminded me of how amazing each and every one of us is. Here we go:

Aza -When were you convicted and what were you convicted for?

Jess – Let’s see. The last time I was arrested was July 2007 for possession of methamphetamine. I was already on first offender felony probation, so I ended up staying in the county jail for a little over 5 months.

Aza – What helped you push through the obstacles that your convictions put in place?

Jess- I found out about two weeks in that I was pregnant. It was one of the scariest 5 months of my life. I called my mom to bail me out like I always did… only, this time she called my existing probation office to make sure they put a probation violation hold on me so that I couldn’t get out. Of course, at the time she had no idea how long I would be stuck in there; she just wanted me to get clean. For so long, she didn’t even know if I was still alive; so, knowing I was somewhere safe was a relief. As far as pushing through the obstacles that stem from my convictions, of course, my faith and my family were a huge driving source. I honestly believe that God saved me. That putting my life in His hands is the only reason I still have one. And, I couldn’t have made it through the drug court program and rehab program and the stress of being a single mom and recovering addict without my parents. But, also, there was no choice but to push through. I remember being paraded through doctors offices (because a pregnant inmate still has rights to prenatal care) in cuffs and leg shackles, people pulling their kids closer to them as if I was going to attack, and thinking, “I’m not this person. I never hurt anyone other than myself.” The shame was unbearable. I remember standing in front of the judge for the last time, facing 10 years in prison, and feeling completely hopeless. And, I remember the world around me stopping as I heard her say she saw something in me that she can’t explain, and that she was going to give me another chance on the condition that she never sees me in her courtroom again. And, at that moment, I knew I had no choice. I wanted to be better, for myself and for my baby. I was going to prove to everyone that I was better than what they saw.

Aza – What advice would you give to other struggling felons and recovering addicts across the globe?

Jess – For advice, I would say this: You are not your mistakes. BUT don’t disown your past. Own every single part of who you are. One thing that always bothers me is when people say, “well, that’s your past. That’s not who you are.” Wrong. My past is every bit a part of who I am. And, I wear it with pride. I have been through the pits of hell and I have come out, no matter how battered or bruised, on the other side. I encourage you to not let anyone make you feel ashamed of your past. You’re a survivora fighter… and the world has so much in store for you!


Thank you, Jess, for sharing your story of struggle and how you pushed through the obstacles that life throws at us.

 

Misinformation is Abundant

Hey Readers! I’ve been scrolling through the Twitter feeds and Facebook groups, and I have been shocked by the amount of misinformation about felons that has been spread.

There’s a few things in particular that I’d like to clear up now.

Voting: In many states, so long as you’ve completed your sentence fully (lock up and supervision included), you can register to vote again and have your voice heard.

Firearms: In many cases, non-violent felons can regain access to firearms – again, once completely finished with your sentence.

Felon Friendly Jobs – Lists have been floating around the internet for years, ever since we figured out we could share information. The thing is – not all felons will be hired by ‘felon friendly employers’. This is very much based on the nature of your felony and the nature of the work you’re going for. For instance, with my record, all retail store employers see is a thief when they look at my background. However, I can easily work in the automotive industry, in factories, and many other career paths if I choose to.

Thinking All States Have the Same Laws – Seriously, just throw that idea out the window now. My research has shown me just how insane the differences are, and guess what – you’ll need to find out what applies to you and your state if you want to succeed with your background. (I can’t stress this word enough – RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH)

Alright, that covers the main pains I’ve seen recently. Here’s a list of previous posts that are also full of resources:

Misinformation about Felons

Timelines and Tips

Felons and Certifications

Guide to Life After a Felony (ebook)

Friendly Felon’s Guide to Life  (print book)

That’s all for now guys, til next time – Stay Strong, Rise Above, and NEVER let anyone tell you who you are and who you CAN BE. We are MORE THAN OUR PASTS and we will overcome all our obstacles!

Love and Peace – Aza

Sometimes we just have to wait….

Hey Readers!

There’s been a lot going on in the life of your dear Friendly Felon, and I just wanted to touch base and let you all know I am indeed still with the living.

Between the day job and the writing, it’s gotten hectic. The payroll job keeps trying to worm it’s way into holding itself as a main priority in life – when it really isn’t. Yes, it’s paying bills, but it’s not where I want my life to grow. Either way, right now, it’s sort of overwhelming everything else.

I’m also deep into the editing and beta reading phase of the up and coming ‘Letters of Love and War” (that title will change – it’s already been taken, sadly). Currently, I’m waiting for beta reader input, and waiting for the appointment with a possible photographer for the cover. (I’d love to use photos of the letters that are the basis of the book) But, these things take time, and it’s time that I’m not in control of. (Gotta remember to let go sometimes)

So, this is my reminder, that sometimes things have to wait.

We can still work toward our goals, we can still take baby steps in the right directions, and we can still get things done, even while we wait.

Just don’t get too caught up in the tasks you find while you’re waiting, or you might miss the perfect opportunity.

Love and Peace – Aza

The Early Morning Struggle

Good Morning Readers, it’s approximately 5:16 am, and I’ve been up for nearly an hour already.

It’s breakfast shift day at my payroll job.

Partly my own fault for volunteering, but I also have inventory to deal with today. Either way, thanks to the lovely cold in the Midwest right now, my car loves to not start immediately.

As I was cursing my volunteering spirit, and the poor, cold battery that has been struggling for its life for the last month or so, I realized that the sort of determination I was showing was part of why I’ve moved so far forward.

Are you the person who lets those moments of frustration overwhelm them? Or are you the one that pushes through the frustration and makes things happen?

No matter how many times my car has refused to start in this weather, I don’t let it quit, because I know I CAN’T QUIT either. It doesn’t matter if it’s just while I’m facing off with a loose battery post in 0 degree Fahrenheit for the eighteenth time in a morning – or going to that millionth interview where my background is going to get brought up again (even after an entire decade of good behavior) – I make the best of those situations, and push through them – because I have a goal.

And I’m determined to reach it.

Keep pushing forward guys! Even on those cold, dark mornings, where it seems the sun will never light your day.

Love and Peace – (a very cold and sleepy) Aza

Going the Extra Mile …It’s good for felons too!

Hey Readers! Welcome to my blog and thanks for stopping by! Today, I’m talking about going the extra mile and how it can impact your chances of gaining the life you want.

If you didn’t know already, I’m a fellow felon with a Class 2 Theft, and I typically have a day job along with numerous freelance things (that I wish I could focus on, but we all have bills to pay, right?). Just over 4 months ago, I changed jobs again (my own choice for once, lol) and started working in a local restaurant that features a bar.

I made sure that the interviewing manager knew about my background from day one. The secondary owner didn’t find out until a couple months later when I began suggesting improvements and helped write a brochure for an upcoming event the bar would be a part of. After seeing my work and loving it, he asked about what I’d written before and I told him about the Guide to Life After a Felony ebook – which of course led to – What do I know about felonies?

Heh. Quite a bit actually, personal experience is sucky – but I’ve done some great things because of it. This impressed him, a lot.

His following comment was one thing that really drove home to me the fact that ‘FELON’ isn’t stamped on my forehead (after so many unsavory interactions with the public over the years, it really feels that way sometimes I think).

Anyway, after the brochure thing, I also noticed that the company didn’t have an employee handbook yet – so I made one. I detailed the expectations of the waitresses and bartenders, as well as various opening and closing procedures that needed to be followed to improve the efficiency of the business.
This caught his attention again. No one had asked me to do this, or even suggested it as a thing that we needed. I simply took an idea I had and ran with it. #ExtraMile

Fast forward another month later, and I get called into the boss’s office. I’m freaking out, I’m thinking all sorts of negative stuff, just assuming that I’m going to get fired for either taking too much initiative or for having some random customer throw a fit over my background (it’s happened before – someone I had never met hated me (and my record) and refused to offer business to that facility while I was employed).

After a short discussion about how I had taken a step too far with a bar special (I didn’t charge enough for a certain product that is classified as premium and hadn’t asked permission to run a special – it was a hit though!) [the disapproval didn’t help my initial mindset though]; the interviewing manager looked over at the co-owner, and said, “Should we tell her? Or give her another day?”

My heart dropped again, I’m thinking ‘Yup, back to Craigslist…’

The next words out of the owner’s mouth were, “We’ve noticed that you’ve put in a lot of extra work here, and I’d like to promote you. How would you feel about that?”

-Jaw drop-

“I’d love that! Thank you for appreciating everything I’ve done here. I never expected this!”

So… moral of the story is

When you do land a job (even if it isn’t your ‘goal’ job), always find a way to go the extra mile. Even if it doesn’t land you a promotion (I’ve been putting in the extra mile at every job and this is only the second job where I’ve been offered management level work) it does get you noticed. And getting noticed for good things is the best weapon against that stigma that we all experience as felons.

It won’t necessarily have an immediate effect on your life, and you probably won’t get immediate notice for going the extra mile. For instance, at another place of employment, I created new signage for us to use when advertising our services, and re-organized the inventory to make it easier to count. Nothing happened there – other than the store manager saying thanks. When I transferred into another auto shop, I re-organized the entire filing system and got the files completely up to date – once finished – I was laid off (but did have good references from them). Not exactly a great reward for going the extra mile right?

But I never let the lack of a reward stop me from putting extra work in. Heck, for me, the knowledge that I made even a small positive impact – even if just for a co-worker- is enough for me – and I don’t even have to like the business I’m at to enjoy that part. It certainly helps to like your job, it can be difficult to find motivation to do extra stuff when you dislike the place or the people, but you aren’t doing it for them really, you’re doing it for yourself and your future.

Every single positive interaction will begin to build upon the other, and will eventually pull you out of the black hole that a bad background can become for us felons. So, keep pushing forward through all the bullcrap, stay strong, and build up for your future.

We got this fellow felons, stay strong and remember, we are MORE than our past.

Love and Peace,
Aza

Introspecting the Post Conviction Mentality

It’s important to remember that a conviction is something that happens to you, and that it doesn’t define you.
It’s also important to remember that one of the worst things about trying to change your life is how frustrating the whole process can be, but good things do NOT come easy – not for the majority of us anyway.
I went for years thinking that my record made me worthless in the eyes of society before realizing that I really did still have something to contribute that would be helpful and meaningful somehow.
The social perception that I wasn’t worthy of a job depressed and infuriated me in the early years during probation and even after a successful completion of my sentence, things didn’t seem to begin to turn up. Every failed interview and every let down in housing options made me feel stupid and insignificant in the eyes of society, and why should I try to cater to that – they hate me right? (sound familiar at all?)

But I know now that I am more than my past, and I know from interacting with a huge group of fellow felons online in a variety of platforms that many other felons out there are more than their past too.

Really letting that sink in can be hard, both for the felon and for the never convicted.

And it’s honestly understandable. A fellow felon just mentioned to me last week that there are many out there who are still actively being shitty (for lack of a more eloquent description), and yes, there is always that danger, but I assure you that there are many more of us that simply want to live our lives in some semblance of a secure manner.

One of the leading things I’ve found in my own research and work with this stuff, is that when we’re denied our basic rights on the outside, we find them met on the inside.

And that sucks. It makes people want to go back, simply because it meets those basic needs. However, what those sorts are forgetting, is that there are more than basic needs in life. We have needs for positive social interaction with other people that want us to grow and learn. We have desires for lovers and families (in some cases). We have a wish to do something that leaves a mark on the world. But, somehow, we get caught up on those basic needs, simply because we hear no too often, lose that job, are denied that apartment, or lose that sense of security in life. All because we made one (or more) mistakes, and even though we tried to do better, the more we had to hustle in the wrong way just to get by.

I can only say that through sheer bull headedness that I’ve managed to scrape by and fight my way to what I want in life. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of going the extra mile. If you’re in the same boat, I want you to know you’re not alone, you’re worth more than your past, and you can do whatever you really put your mind to. Hustle for the good side of things, even harder than anything you might have done in the past for that other side. Something I found that is posted on The Friendly Felon Facebook Page, is Chris Pratt’s quote, involving this sentence-

“IT will break before YOU do…”

That’s powerful right there. Meditate on that bit there, and see where you can take life.

Love and Peace

Aza

 

Misinformation about Felons

I’ve been perusing some Facebook groups that are directed toward felons and how to move forward after a conviction. And while I love that, I also notice the amount of misinformation or lack of information. People are discussing creating petitions to their state when it is very possible that the state already has something in place. These programs are not easy to find, but they are one of the least utilized tools that are already there.
People also often seem to think that felons are not supposed to be friends with each other, or that felons can’t vote for the rest of their lives. This simply is not the case in many states. Once you are finished serving your supervisory sentence (probation or parole), you actually get many rights back automatically. I know for a fact that in Illinois, I was able to vote the same year I finished my ‘supervised’ term. I didn’t care to vote until recently, but I was allowed to do so if I wished that same year.

And as for being buddies with other felons, it IS  legal for you to do so. It might not be the best of ideas, especially if the felons you’re friends with are still behaving badly as you really don’t need the inspiration to join in again, but it’s not against the law to be friends. Honestly, it might only apply to people that have specific bars against contact with certain individuals in their probation/parole while they are on it. I know on my case, there was an additional condition of avoiding the individual who had been my companion in my criminal conviction, and I found later that they had a similar condition on their paperwork against me. But it only lasted until our respective sentences were finished. Well, the legal part did, I’ve avoided that particular individual like the Prince from Edgar Allan Poes “The Masque of the Red Death” simply because I don’t need the temptation to fall back in with people I KNOW don’t have the ‘let’s move on mentality’.  The mindset of who you around GREATLY influence you and your motivation. Don’t trap yourself, and be realistic about who you’re around if you really want to make a shift to a better place.

Gun rights are another big unknown for many felons, but there are many states that will allow you to gain back your right to a firearm as well. In Illinois, once you’re done with your sentence, you can apply for your FOID again, and if you are denied, you can take it to the local court to discuss with a judge why you earned/ deserve the right back. Of course, violent offenders probably won’t get this back, and until rehabilitation efforts are created and fully functional in this direction, that probably won’t change. But for the majority of other convictions, you are likely fully eligible to make the attempt to show you’ve earned this right again. Some states are a little more hardball, and others play it more loosely. You have to learn to research these things, and have the patience to read through the “legal speak”. It isn’t easy, but IT CAN lead you to what you NEED to climb that ladder!

I think that pretty much covers the biggest things that I’ve noticed with misinformation about having a felony and how it influences us. The biggest thing to remember here is to DO THE DAMN RESEARCH. Or (shameless self-advertising) you can pay me to do it for you at my Fiverr Gig here – https://www.fiverr.com/azarathia/provide-felony-rehabilitation-support.

Point is, you HAVE to be armed with KNOWLEDGE about your state and your conviction. Without this sort of arsenal, you’ll keep feeling like the dog society tends to think we are.

 That’s all for now – although I won’t be surprised if it comes up again.
Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

Writing Your Story

Sorry for the lack of posts guys, as usual, things are crazy on the home and business fronts. I’ve been hard at work researching and writing first drafts of my other writing projects (more information on these coming soon). And while writing is on my mind, I wanted to talk about how writing your story (how you became a felon) can help you put things into perspective. The insight that you might find through the practice of writing the story of your life might help you find your path to freedom again.

Shortly after my own incarceration, I found myself writing non-stop in my diary, talking about how I had got myself into the position I was currently in, how the people I thought were friends were just dragging me into unknown depths, and how insane my experience seemed to be in general.

I started to realize that it wasn’t just my friends that had beguiled me into the situation and that I had to take control of myself for myself. I had to start being accountable for my actions and lack of actions. This realization helped guide me to where I am now. I have raised a child to double digits (the little one isn’t so little these days), I have supported my family, and I have taken control of my life and I won’t let anything stop me from being successful. Felon or not, I am going to find or forge (create forcibly, not write bad checks, just FYI) my path to freedom and acceptance in society. And I know you can do it too!

Point is, writing it out can help you get outside of your head and might take a bit of the depression off your shoulders. It helped me learn more about myself and find out what I needed to change about myself – you never know until you authentically give it a shot.

Til next time,

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

Learning to be Flexible about Work

Hello, dear Readers!

I want to talk to you about being a felon and finding work. If I’ve learned anything over the past ten years of having a record tied to my name, it’s that being flexible about the kind of work I’m available for, is the best way to keep the income coming in.

With my conviction, I was pushed to gain my GED by a given date in the probation papers, and this helped fill in the first -good- part of my resume. In some cases, your own convictions and the following supervision period (probation/parole/etc) may have included similar pushes to become an active member of society again.

Often, you’ll have to complete these either while serving time or while getting probation or parole over with. If not, I suggest getting this generalized diploma as soon as you feel you can pass the test. There are tons of GED classes available in most areas, as well as numerous free sources online that you can use (like Kahn Academy – I use it for homeschooling too!) to get your basics in shape for the test.

After I got the GED out of the way, I marched around town (7 months pregnant at the time on top of it), and put in an application to nearly every business I happened across. Did I get any of the jobs? Absolutely not. My conviction was too recent, my name too recently brought up as the worst name in the books, and I was too far along in my pregnancy for any employers to want to invest their money training me for a job I’d statistically either thieve from or leave from too soon. Did it stop me? Again – absolutely not.

It did take a while for me to finally find a job that would employ me, and that first job (I’ll leave you guessing here) after the conviction had actually left me with some majorly mixed emotions – even to this day- and helped push me into a state of mind where I was very uncomfortable with myself.

Normally, this isn’t a great thing, but it allowed me to realize that in order to get my good (or even just neutralized) name back in the surrounding area, I’d have to find a way to do good things and prove that I wasn’t the person I had been before.

I started applying to the diners and cafes in the area so that I could interact with people and let them get to know me as a person. There’s nothing like a customer service job in a small town. My probation wasn’t quite up at the time, and the incident I had been involved in was still relatively known and discussed, so even a slight misstep was cause enough to get myself fired in these early days. The pay was low, and customers were fairly rude (to which I learned to respond with kindness – that was bloody difficult), and the tips were unreliable.

Once probation was finally over and I passed the age of 21, the option of working in bars opened up as well. This proved rather lucrative, as when the locals came and drank on my shift, they would get drunk and actually begin to give me time to talk to them and they tipped even more than the morning rushes at the diners. I even managed to make a couple of friends. However, thanks to my inability to move from the area, there were still rumors flying around and I managed to irritate a couple people by simply existing and having a job while having a bad record.

This was still only about four years into my felon status, so things were still pretty raw when it came to jobs that actually ran background checks. Now, after ten years, it’s not so much an issue for me – but I still feel the same old hopelessness creep up every single time I bring it up. It’s not easy to overcome, but since I have no option EXCEPT to keep moving forward, I choose to push through it every time the job search is renewed.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t win by lying to your (potential) employer. The background checks now are often not limited to a certain number of years as everything is becoming digital and can be retrieved for a low rate by nearly every company.

The most recent application I made for a part-time independent contract inspection agent position proved this, as I found that even after ten years and one month past my conviction date, my record was readily available and staring me in the face in an (accusatory feeling) email. However, they have given me the chance to discuss the conviction and how I’ve proven that I’m not a naughty person any longer. Not all companies will do this, and even when they do, it’s likely something required by law and they’re just covering the bases to cover their arses.

That’s where the certifications and proof of positive change come in to save the day (in some situations anyway).

That’s all for now, keep checking back!

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)