Paying For The Mistakes Of Youth

We've all suffered through the 'mistakes of youth'.

Some incidents are serious and end with jail time.

But how long should we pay for those mistakes?

Tracy Lautt is still paying for the mistakes of her youth.

"I got arrested for possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine," she said.

That was ten years ago. Since then, Tracy has worked to change her direction.

Following a stint in prison, then drug treatment and half-way houses, Tracy got clean and was ready to go on with her life.

"Getting arrested was probably the best thing that ever happened to me in all honesty," she said.

But Tracy's felony conviction haunted her when it came to employment.

"Unfortunately, I still heard 'no' a lot...too often," she said. "I kind of felt no one was willing to take a chance on me and I was defined by my felony. I couldn't even get to the interview point."

Rehabilitation Specialist Jen Papproth works with employers to get convicted felons back to work.

"There's a slew of barriers that can be involved with someone exiting the system," she said.

But it's difficult for women since most jobs are manual labor.

"The physical capacities of that job sometimes are not what some women can handle day to day so it can be very tough," Papproth said.

Another hurdle lies with the job application form. On most the applicant is asked "have you ever been convicted of a felony...yes or no." Few employers offer an opportunity to describe improvement since the conviction and there's usually no time frame.

But a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may change that. They recommend employers give the applicant an opportunity to explain the offense, giving them a chance to hire people who may have suffered a mistake of youth.

Papproth says that gives felons a fair chance at employment.

"Maybe allow the employer to understand the person. Maybe some of the things that not so much led them to the conviction but perhaps some of the things they've worked on since the conviction," she said.

Tracy Lautt is proving some convicted felons can be good employees.

"Eventually somebody said yes, I was at least able to get a foot in the door and prove that I'm a hard worker and that I'm serious about my life," she said.

Tracy worked her way up to a supervisor's position and was just named Employee of the Month.

She also volunteers in the community and is a 4.0 student in college.

Tracy says she has a greater appreciation for life because she was judged on what she can do...not what she did.

"Look how I've improved", she said.

Tracy was recently accepted into an advanced degree program.

She also works two jobs.

Despite all her hard work, she's still concerned the mistakes of her youth will come back to haunt her.

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