Felons struggle to find jobs in the Panhandle

A "Now Hiring" sign outside of a local Amarillo business.

Ten years after being convicted of two felony drug charges, Tac Buchanan now works with inmates through the Bridge to Life program as the Texas Panhandle Regional Coordinator

Tac got out of jail in 2003 and after years of struggle, he said he is doing well. But he attributes that to knowing that when he came out of prison, he understood he was going to have to work to be reaccepted and to climb back to the top in terms of the working world.

â??You do have that mark on your back and you can build your way up to the top. You donâ??t get out and youâ??re just up there automatically. You have to have patience and be diligent and just do what youâ??ve got to do,â?? said Buchanan.

Buchanan even went to get an apartment recently and was up front about his previous felony charges. However, after paying a deposit and preparing to move in, he was told by corporate that due to his past, he could not live there. Instead of being angry, he moved on. He did the same when he first was released from prison and heard numerous â??noâ??sâ?? to his many job applications.

â??These guys need to realize you canâ??t give up just because one bad thing happens,â?? said Buchanan.

As far as the job search, Buchanan believes there are opportunities for everyone and just because someone has a felony does not mean they should not try. But he does understand it is not easy. Tac uses his life as a testimony to help the inmates and tell them that instances, like the one he experienced in his job search and even recently with the apartment, are things that they will have to deal with and come across as a felon.

However, Holly Casias does not have the same outlook on the process of finding work for a convicted felon. Casias has been struggling to help her family member and has even reached out on social media and compiled a list of places that say they do not turn away applicants just because of previous convictions. However, in the past two years, her family member has applied incessantly and never received a phone call to come back for an interview.

â??Itâ??s very apparent that this community is unaccepting of people that have criminal backgrounds,â?? said Casias.

She said her family member has paid his debt to society and is ready to move on and in order for him to become a member of society, he has to have a job. But she believes people say they are more forgiving than they actually are, and that lack of forgiveness or understanding is keeping her family member from being able to find work.

â??It has become nearly impossible for a convicted felon to find a job,â?? said Holly Casias, whose family member has been looking for work for the past two years. â??Itâ??s hard to be a convicted felon and find a job because nobody is willing to forgive and forget. They might say that they do, but when it comes to their own place of business, they donâ??t want to hire anybody that has a criminal background.â??

Buchanan said that, through his work with Bridge to Life, he sees a change in inmates, and knows they are different people than the day they began their jail sentence. The change he sees in inmates throughout the fourteen-week Bridge to Life program? He said itâ??s their spirit. They just need patience to let society see that change as well.