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Art exhibit sheds light on individuals with criminal records in today's workforce

People with a criminal history often get overlooked for jobs as America's worker shortage continues.

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.”

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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. 

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