Imagine you’re about to rent an apartment. You have all your paperwork and your deposit ready to go. And then, the renters tell you they won’t let you live there because you committed a crime ten years ago.
That’s the devastating rejection Ursula Furse faced countless times as she transitioned from the criminal justice system into society.
Ursula is a person in recovery, a mother, a survivor of domestic violence, and has been in and out of jail for 20 years. She has 11 years of sobriety. Ursula has experienced situational depression, PTSD, and ADHD. She states that these are not her struggles anymore—they are her strengths. She has been working as a peer support specialist for the last 7 years providing recovery and support to others.
In this video, Ursula shares her story about the barriers she faced when she was transitioning from the criminal justice system into society, such as getting a job, renting an apartment, and getting enrolled in school.
“When I was first released, I was still on probation and trying to get a job,” Ursula said. “I did hair as a fully licensed cosmetologist. I went in to apply for the job, and they wanted to know about my criminal background. I said I’d been convicted of a felony, and I just need a chance. I need someone to give me an opportunity to change my life. I told her that I was in recovery.
“She said ‘My father went to the same place that you went for recovery. I’m going to give you a chance. Don’t make me regret it… I worked there for 5 years, and after that they decided to start hiring other people with histories of justice involvement. I broke down that barrier. Not just for myself but for others.
“It is hard to come into a society when your past tells everyone that you’re not worthy. You’re not smart enough. You’re not good enough. You were a bad person. You did drugs. Yes, I’m a woman in long-term recovery. And I can change because somebody else cared enough to give me the opportunity to make that change.”