EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part Sunday series on poverty in Angelina County.
One of many risk factors cited in a report by the United Way of Texas for being considered among the working poor — those who work a job yet still struggle to make ends meet — is prior incarceration.
In 2018, United Way released a closer look into the working poor titled ‘’Alice: A Study of Financial Hardship in Texas.’’ The study focuses on a population defined as “ALICE,” an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, those who are employed but make too little to consistently sustain their living. The study included numerous contributing factors as to why an individual may be considered ALICE, with those who were formerly incarcerated being one of many.
United Way’s data indicated about 50% of Angelina County were in the ALICE designation or below the poverty line.
Citing past studies, the 2018 report states the employment rates for people who have been incarcerated range from 9.7% to 23% lower than non-offenders. Additionally, it states about 75% of formerly incarcerated individuals are still unemployed a year after their release.
“When they do find employment, it tends to be in low-wage service jobs often held by ALICE workers, in industries including construction, food service, hotel/hospitality, landscaping/lawn care, manufacturing, telemarketing, temporary employment and warehousing,” the United Way study states.
Formerly incarcerated people face additional difficulties in finding employment, the study states, as well as difficulty in reintegration back into the community. Among the factors cited were low levels of education, lack of skills and experience due to time out of the labor force, employer reluctance to hire a formerly incarcerated applicant and substance abuse issues.
State District Judge Bob Inselmann, who works with numerous formerly incarcerated people out on probation or bond, said it’s a common occurrence for people to struggle with employment after a conviction or incarceration.
“It happens a lot. The crazy thing about it is you can go out and have a felony, a series of DWIs, a felony conviction and you’ll get hired,” Inselmann said. “You can have a misdemeanor theft case and they won’t hire you. I’m talking a theft that occurred 20 years ago, but you still have that conviction.
“I had a call yesterday, where a girl said she can’t get a job because she has a theft conviction. It’s a misdemeanor; she ended up serving four days in jail. It was less than a hundred dollars. If an employer is looking at two applications, and one has a spot on his criminal history, they’re definitely going to lean toward the one without the criminal history.”
In 2016, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated Texas had 224,113 incarcerated, a rate of 563 per 100,000 adults, which is lower than the national rate of 670 per 100,000 adults.
Similarly, the BJS reports the population on probation, community supervision and parole was 4,537,100 at the end of 2016. In Texas, 488,800 were on community supervision, 378,937 on probation and 111,892 on parole.
Angelina County Adult Probation Director Marcy Anthony said an estimated 1,100 residents are currently facing community supervision in the county, with an extra 50 to 60 on bond conditions awaiting the determination of their criminal cases. The 2010 U.S. census found Angelina County to have a population of 86,771; overall roughly 1.3% of the county is under community supervision.
Anthony explained bond conditions can vary from case to case based upon the judge’s decision, with fees and other conditions common throughout all on probation and bond.
“(People on bond) have to pay a $25 to $40 supervision fee, a bond fee they have to pay us to supervise them,” Anthony said. “They have to pay $15 for drug testing if the judge orders drug testing.
“People who are on probation pay $60 a month. They can get the other conditions on probation, and may have to pay court orders, attorney fees, if there’s a victim in the case they may pay restitution.”
Other common bond conditions include having a probation officer conduct home visits, having a job, being unable to drink alcohol or use drugs, the use of a monitoring device or an airlock device on a vehicle and being unable to leave the county. County boundaries can be alleviated for those who have a job or go to school outside of the county.
“There are conditions where they can leave the county during the day for work as long as they come back at night,” Anthony said. “It just depends on the judge.
“Most of them, the reason they’re put on bond is that they already have jobs, so the judge let’s them out so they won’t lose their job.”
For those who have just received a charge and been placed under arrest, merely posting bond to exit the jail can prove to be a barrier in low-income homes depending on the severity of the charge.
“You want the defendant out on bond so he can support his family, her family,” Inselmann said. “The amount to be released on bond is 10% of the total of the bond. You’ve got a $10,000 bond, it’ll cost $1,000 to get out. So people who are living in poverty are not going to be able to make that bond.
“I look at the severity of the crime, I look at the likelihood of committing future crimes. The protection of the victim, if it’s a sexual assault case, I want to make sure he doesn’t have any contact with them. I look at his ties to the community, whether he’s going to reappear in court.”
Though finding a job can come with added difficulties following a charge or with pending criminal charges, Inselmann said probation isn’t an impossible task to overcome.
“You have to work your life around probation, not probation working into your life,” he said. “It’s very involved, but most people should successfully be able to complete probation.”