Kelley Page saw his e-cigarette store as the new chapter in his life. So it stung that much more when it was taken away because of his past.
The Des Moines city council denied Page, an convicted felon, a tobacco permit earlier this month due to "lack of good moral character." Page subsequently had to sell his store to his mother in order to keep it running. He says this isn't the first time his past offenses have kept him from employment.
"I put on slacks and a tie and started to look for a job selling cars. After the seventeenth car dealership, someone finally gave me a shot. It was all due to my troubles."
Kerry Koonce, communications director for Iowa Workforce Development, says that while not every ex-offender faces the specific permit-related struggles Page has, it's still very difficult for them to obtain gainful employment.
"It's definitely an uphill battle often for ex-felons. It can be very difficult for an individual to find that first opportunity."
Koonce says the state does try to help. She says Iowa Workforce Development's in-facility training leads the nation in preparing ex-offenders for the job market before they've even been released from prison.
In this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Koonce and Page about prospects, opportunities, and struggles in the Iowa job market for convicted felons.