Cleaning the record: Second Chance Program could lead to employment opportunities

Published 11:36 pm Saturday, September 7, 2019

A program to help people clear their criminal record that would in turn help them get a job has launched in Jefferson County.

The Second Chance Program is organized by the Jefferson County Bar Association, working alongside the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, district clerk’s office, sheriff’s office and others.

Defense attorney Dustin Galmor said there is a lot of professional opportunities coming into the area through expansions and refinery work, and the purpose of the program is to help people clear their criminal record so they can earn employment.

“There are a lot of people who qualify to clean their record but, unfortunately, some can’t afford to,” Galmor said.

Galmor said the Second Chance Program originated as a project by local industry leaders and the Jefferson County Bar Association, who put their heads together to model the effort after a successful Louisiana program.

“Texas has a very strict policy on clearing records. You simply have to qualify and there are a lot of different ways to qualify such as if your case was dismissed or if you received deferred probation,” he said.

Other qualifications could be if a person went to jail and was found not guilty or if they are in a diversion program.

He said it would be hard to say how many people in the county would qualify— some people already have a job and are not worried about the issue. Then there are some who simply can’t afford to do it or don’t know they can.

Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham explained there are a lot of people employable that qualify for either nondisclosures or to have the incident removed from their record.

“We are trying to help increase the workforce and get some people where they can get a good paying job,” Wortham said. “I would imagine after this first series we would go back and do a second series.”

The program is open to the first 250 applicants— a number Wortham believes has been reached though he speculates about half that number will not qualify under the statute.

But this doesn’t mean the program is over. It has only just begun. Interested persons can go to SecondChanceSETX.com for an application and for more information.

Another program

There is also a program in place for people who have a drinking while driving charge but otherwise a clean record.

Wortham said when he was first elected DA before he was even sworn in he visited the Jefferson County Probation Office and asked how many people get one DWI and have no other criminal activity. He was told 74%.

“If you are pulled over (for DWI) and never had a DWI and have no other criminal activity, go ahead and be cooperative with police because we have started a program for first time offenders,” he said of taking the breathalyzer test.

Wortham said the same program applies for first time marijuana users.

A program is in place to help rehabilitate these individuals instead of trying to get a conviction.

“We try to be very fair to citizens in the county and give them an opportunity after they’ve made a mistake,” he said. “We’re not a statistical driven group. We want to help people help themselves.”