Local woman starting program to help ex-convicts

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Sheena Beasley is honest about a mistake she made in the past.

“I worked for the state of North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles as a driver's license examiner. Of course, it is a crime to sell driver's licenses and I did,” Beasley said.

“As I understand it, they had watched me from 1982 to 1984, so I actually ended up with five felonies if I'm not mistaken,” she said.

In 1985, she was given a five-year suspended sentence.

She didn’t serve time, but had to pay restitution, pay the IRS and was placed on probation.

However, Beasley says even though she paid a legal penalty, she paid a social one too.

She says more than 20 years later, in 2007 and 2008, she experienced the stigma of having a record.

“People did not want to give me a job because of my criminal background. Even though I was convicted in 1985 and this is 2007 and 2008,” she said.

She also had an experience where she believes her background is why she was not approved for an apartment.

Eventually, Beasley would find housing and employment.

Her experience inspired her to help others facing similar challenges.

She launched The Almond Connection (TAC).

It’s a nonprofit that focuses on connecting people with criminal backgrounds to the right resources to move forward.

“You can be open and honest about your situation because there are people out here that are willing to help you in spite of your mistakes,” she said.

TAC hasn’t officially opened because programs are being developed.

However, Beasley is networking with other community agencies to have a better understanding of the services needed in the Piedmont.

Once it opens, TAC will serve Guilford County men and women who have non-sexual felony convictions.