Convicted felons, for some reason, have a bad reputation.
It may be because they’ve been, well, convicted of a felony. Felonies run the gamut from murder to drug possession, theft to child prostitution.
Arizona law suspends a host of civil rights from convicted felons. They can no longer vote, can’t hold public office positions and are banned from owning a gun. They automatically get out of jury duty. They can forget about working as a sheriff’s deputy or cop.
But convicted felons can be hired into a state position unless their felony “has a reasonable relationship to the functions” of what they are hired to do.
In other words, it wouldn’t be wise to hire a person convicted of child prostitution to run a day care agency or babysit your kids.
While some of us may want to give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove us wrong – not unlike that “innocent until proven guilty” theory – some folks just can’t be trusted.
Two cases popped up recently in Pinal County where convicted felons who had been hired by the county government screwed up royally.
Albert Robbs, 51, who served prison time for theft, was hired by the County Recorder’s office into a position where he had complete access to county residents’ checking account numbers, credit card information and social security numbers.
Guess what? Robbs stole checks that came into the office and handed them over to one of his three partners-in-crime to buy drugs, according to Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
“It’s not surprising he was subsequently arrested and indicted for identity theft and assisting in a criminal syndicate,” Babeu said in his August newsletter.
Royzell Williams, 46, who served time for theft, drug possession and sale of drugs, was hired as a bailiff in Pinal County Superior Court.
“Just last week, he was arrested, booked and charged with accepting bribes in exchange for attempting to influence the outcome of cases before the Superior Court,” Babeu said.
That’s some pretty heavy duty stuff.
Both guys were hired fresh out of prison. Both guys were given the benefit of the doubt. Both guys made the sheriff angry enough to demand a ban on hiring convicted felons into Pinal County government positions.
“These situations serve as strong examples of why we should ban the hiring of convicted felons,” Babeu said. “Leaders in our government have knowingly hired convicted felons, who have used their public offices to commit serious crimes. Hiring officials allowed their personal relationships or other considerations color their judgment when it comes to hiring decisions.”
I’ve seen convicted felons who are honestly trying to turn their lives around and cringe every time they have to fill out that little box on employment applications: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony? Please explain.”
I’ve also seen convicted felons who dabble at making a better life, realize it’s a major pain to follow the law, at least for them, and plunge back into the “easy” life of crime.
Some, too, pretend to be on the up-and-up while they have no intention of doing anything other than falling back into their old habits.
Would I hire a convicted felon to weed my yard?
Sure. As long as he stayed outside.
Paint my house?
Maybe. Depends on the conviction. And as long as he didn’t see where my diamonds, emeralds and rubies were stashed.
Watch my dogs?
Not in your life.
Is banning convicted felons from government employment too harsh?
Should they all be given a second chance?
Have you had any positive/negative experiences hiring, befriending or marrying a convicted felon?