Finding a job and a place to live may be two of the biggest challenges we, as law-abiding citizens, must face in adulthood. But consider how much more challenging these two tasks become after you’ve been convicted of a crime. Once a convicted offender has paid his or her debt to society, they should be given a fair chance to become a contributing, law-abiding member of their community. Unfortunately, Texas law, though not as uncompromising as its counterparts in some other states, makes it relatively easy for businesses and landlords to discriminate against individuals who have been convicted of a felony.
Fortunately, Texas and the city of Houston has several successful organizations who can help ex-offenders with reentry and integration. Resources for ex-offenders – that is, any person who has been convicted of a crime and paid a fine, done community service, received a suspended sentence (probation), and/or served time in prison – range from programs and services provided by the state of Texas, to smaller, nonprofit organizations. It’s inspiring to know there are such resources for ex-offenders in Houston, and to see the good work being done to prevent recidivism and build safer and stronger communities.
Reentry and Integration for Ex-Offenders
The Texas Department of Justice Reentry and Integration Division provides guidance for both juvenile and adult offenders with reentry into their community. The division offers a three-phased reentry program that begins with helping offenders get the IDs they need, including a social security card, birth certificate and state identification card, in order to apply for a job or sign a lease. The second phase involves creating a plan to assess and address the risk of the individual re-offending, and the third phase prepares that individual for employment. The division also addresses the unique needs of veterans, and works with the Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical and Mental Impairments (TCOOMMI) to address any health and medical needs of offenders. They also have a free, downloadable reentry resource guide, which lists services for ex-offenders in counties across the state.
Businesses that hire ex-offenders can benefit from the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Also relevant for business owners is Chapter 142 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which limits the liability of an employer “who hires a persons with past criminal convictions.” Business owners who would like to provide a job opportunity to an ex-offender can contact the Reentry and Integration Division directly at [email protected], or call toll free at (877) 887-6151.
Other Houston Organizations for Ex-Offenders
We’ve written about Becoming One Community (BOC) and Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) in an earlier blog, “Rehabilitation That Works.” Becoming One Community’s job search services include its “Working Through the Nos” workshop, which assists ex-offenders with résumé writing, networking and job interview skills. BOC also can help with financial management, finding housing, and mental and physical health needs. Located in Houston and Dallas, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program provides ex-offenders with a range of resources to ensure a successful re-entry into society. PEP’s services include assistance with finding housing, mental, dental and optical care, job placement, transportation and family reunification. Participants in PEP’s special MBA-level curriculum are connected to and mentored by business executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students, a process that has led to a success rate of over 90 percent.
Founded by Bishop T.D. Jakes, and with offices in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth, the Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative (T.O.R.I.) has provided reentry services for over 10,000 male and female adult ex-offenders. The Houston faith-based organization The WorkFaith Connection assists ex-offenders, as well as recovering addicts and homeless people, with finding secure employment. With chapters across the state, the Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA) works to end recidivism through its resources and programs, including parole workshops and resources for the families of ex-offenders.
For offenders who need to complete a rehabilitation program as part of their parole, Houston’s Right Step and Memorial Hermann Prevention and Recovery Center both offer inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. Many of the above mentioned-organizations can also assist ex-offenders with finding a suitable treatment program.
Houston Legal Defense
If you are arrested for a crime, remember that you have the right to an attorney. Houston’s award-winning Thiessen Law Firm, led by Houston DWI attorney Mark Thiessen, two-time winner of the Super Lawyer award, will ensure you receive the fairest trial possible. We know the science better than the experts, are thoroughly up-to-date on Texas laws, and have the focus, strength and will to fight for your rights. For help, contact us for a free consultation.
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