‘Stuck in a Box': South Florida Mother's Past Convictions Make It Difficult to Find Work

Laquana Mathis says her 18-year-old convictions have made it impossible to find a job.

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This holiday season, Laquana Mathis' only wish is to get her life back on track and to provide for her two-year-old daughter.

“I want to be able to stand on my own and take care of my baby and myself,” Mathis said. 

It’s something the mother of three says has been hard to do these past two years. 

“Once they do my background check, it comes back that I’m disqualified,” she said.

She has two convictions on her record— one for a drug charge in 1998, the other for theft in 2003.

The charges are more than 18 years old and still haunt Mathis until this day. They have made it nearly impossible to find work. 

“I made those mistakes, but it’s still like holding me back from so many years ago which I haven’t been in trouble ever since then, and I’m like, why are they gonna hold that against me from something that happened 18, 20 years ago?" she said.

It’s a situation Cece Espeut, an advocate for civil rights restoration, tries to help people work through. 

“That situation is very very common where people cannot find work because of past mistakes,” Espeut said.

Espeut has helped dozens of people get their records expunged or sealed. It’s a process that can take six to eight months. 

Espeut offers different advice to those who can’t get an expungement.

“I always recommend people go back to school, start a new career, or even just start their own business,” Espeut said.

It’s a situation Mathis hopes she can get help with soon. She says she even plans to work with state lawmakers to see what her options are.

“I’m just stuck in a box trying to figure out how I get myself out of this situation,” Mathis said.

The mother says she has skills in substance abuse counseling and also has experience working in childcare. She hopes to eventually find work in one of those areas. 

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