Austin man who spent time behind bars helps others with criminal backgrounds
AUSTIN, Texas - An Austin man has turned his life around. He spent time behind bars and is now helping others with criminal backgrounds get jobs.
The hope is that providing support will prevent other convicts from committing another crime.
Thirteen years ago, Jeremy Jones had three pending felony charges for grand theft, larceny, and organized crime. He couldn’t get a job.
"I filled out a total of maybe 10 to 12 applications a day and I had doors slammed in my face for 18 months," Jones said.
Jones spent a couple of weeks in jail and two years on probation with the felony charges on his record.
"I was fired from washing dishes, I tried to become a cart pusher, no one would hire me because of these felonies," Jones said.
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He said it was tough even with a support system.
"You just feel hopeless because I was being judged myself by mistakes I did and what a piece of paper said, not the real character and content of who I was," Jones said.
Jones started a photography business during that time. Now he said he wants to help others. "My heart just went out to everyone that’s dealing with just needing a second chance, just needing a hand up," he said.
He said a second chance is all they really need.
"I think so many times men and women are discouraged because the chances aren’t given, the doors are closed on them, and they result to going back to where they were," Jones said.
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Jones said he wants to bring them hope. Through the nonprofit Building Promise USA, Jones and his team provide workforce development and job placement, re-entry supportive services, food program and financial assistance, and mentorship. The goal is to help formerly incarcerated people transition back into the community and succeed.
"Sometimes I have individuals that come into the office, and they don’t believe that I have a criminal background, they don’t believe I was formerly incarcerated, and so if I can give you hope to look at me and say I never knew, I want to make sure you will be able to look at yourself down the line or someone else will be able to look at you and say I wouldn’t have known unless you told me," Jones said.
Jones and his team have helped more than 200 people in the Austin area and hope to make an impact on generations to come.
"When I see the help that’s been given, I don’t see just that individual, I see their whole generation because if we can help change them, I can change the trajectory of everyone that’s connected to them and their life," Jones said.