FORCE Leader Floyd Stafford's Testimony

Floyd Stafford is a leader with FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality) an initiative of CRS. FORCE is led by people with records, their families, and faith allies to create change and justice for people with records.  Floyd recently gave the following testimony before the Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education: School Curriculum and Policies Committee to support HB 494.  After Floyd's testimony on March 25, 2015, the committee passed HB 494 HA 1 by a vote of 16-4. For information, check out the Fact Sheet.
 
Good morning, my name is Floyd Stafford and I’m a FORCE leader. I live on the west side of Chicago, and am currently attending The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. When I graduate in June, I will be filled with excitement and will hopefully be able to begin a rewarding career in Social Work. I also have some disappointment regarding my inability to work in schools. This is because I have a criminal record. In 2009, I obtained a felony conviction for a non-violent drug offense. Since then I have been able to re-integrate myself back into society, primarily through family, my faith, and education. I am before you today to advocate for HB 494, which will remove lifetime barriers to employment for people like myself, who have turned their lives around after a criminal conviction. My past mistakes do not define me, my life is more about what I have done since I have been released and not so much as what I’ve done in the past. 
 
As a concerned resident of the Austin community I know firsthand the lack of opportunity and resources for people who have criminal records. Many of them are homeless, and cannot access various entitlement programs such as public housing, financial assistance for college and, in some instances, food stamps and are oftentimes denied employment because of their past criminal convictions. 
 
Many of these vulnerable individuals are just like me….they have made the necessary adjustments to move forward with their life in a positive way, but we suffer from the stigma of having a criminal record. People who are convicted of a crime are subject to a number of additional civil penalties that remain with them long after they have served their sentence. Often referred to as collateral consequences, these penalties take different forms at the Federal and State level. These collateral sanctions create roadblocks for individuals who are trying to rebuild their lives during the critical period following incarceration. and because through the denying, limiting, and restricting of social, economic, and civic, access, collateral consequences continue to treat the formerly incarcerated as second class citizens. 
 
My transformation has allowed me to heal and restore myself and make amends to people I have caused harm to. I am now an asset to my family and my community. It would be beneficial to myself and my community if I could be used as a change agent in the local schools and I could do my part in encouraging, and challenging the students to follow their dreams and help them avoid the school to prison pipeline. Who better to assist and inform the students of negative influences of street life than someone like myself, and can steer them away from criminal involvement and make investments that can enrich their lives. I hope that you will support HB 494 and remove the lifetime bars to employment that would afford individuals like myself a chance to become economically self-sufficient and become an asset to my community and the broader society.
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