GREENSBORO, N.C. — Employers are struggling to fill positions as America’s worker shortage continues. One demographic continues to get overlooked in filling many of those job postings—individuals with a criminal background.
Victor Vincent is the founder of the Reentry Expert Inc. The nonprofit helps people who were once incarcerated get a second chance at life. As someone who was once incarcerated, Vincent knows firsthand the challenges those with a criminal history face when seeking employment. He said ex-offenders struggled to find jobs throughout the pandemic.
“Well the problem is a lot of jobs still do a lot of background checks and screenings,” Vincent said. “So, a lot of people feel like they won’t get that chance, or they won’t get that opportunity. See there’s a difference between a job and meaningful employment. People want jobs where they can utilize their talent. A lot of times, when we look at people who’ve faced incarceration the only thing, we can think about them doing is sweeping and mopping floors.”
To help showcase the talent of people in the Triad who've faced incarceration, Vincent is partnering with Elsewhere to host an art exhibit called Second Chance: The Creative Impulse of the Judicially Challenged.
Carlos Parks is a portrait artist who picked up the art of painting while incarcerated. He hopes his artwork shows others what they can do with their life even with a criminal past.
“I’ve worked jobs, I’ve worked in warehouses, drove forklifts,” Parks said. “I’ve worked in mental health and then I’m a real estate agent. Everybody deserves a second chance regardless of what you’ve done, and I feel we need to learn to put things behind us. We shouldn’t punish someone who’s repaid their debt to society. A lot of times, I feel like the stigma associated with incarceration prevents people from seeing you as just a person.”
The art show runs April 1-9 at Elsewhere in Greensboro. There will be guest speakers and an opportunity for businesses and those looking for work to network.