Sex offenders finding work in Northern Nevada

With more than 6,000 registered sex offenders living in Nevada, it's hard to know if the employee at the grocery store, the big box store or the car wash you visit is a sex offender.

When offenders get released, Nevada Parole and Probation requires that they get a job.

"Sometimes it's to pay back restitution. All offenders that we supervise are responsible for paying a $30-a-month supervision fee," said Nevada Parole and Probation Capt. David Helgerman. "We recognize that employment is very important to any offender we supervise. We know that the rates of recidivism are lower for people who are working."

It's hard enough for people who don't have a felony on their record to find work. For the 370 state supervised sex offenders in Washoe County, it's even more difficult.

Drew, who was convicted of sexual assault with a deadly weapon in the late 1980s, served 25 years in prison.

"A lot of that night I don't remember," Drew said.

He was just released three years ago.

"That was not me that night. I'm not a predator," he said.

Once he was released, he knew he had to get a job. But he said there was one roadblock after another.

"All of the head, lead guys wanted to keep me wanted to hire me but oh, 'Our policy is not to hire you,'" Drew said. "Just straight up discrimination against my crime. Don't want to hear the fine print behind it. You're labeled and that's it."

Thousands of sex offenders are working in Nevada.

"It's very difficult to say that there's one industry. If I was to say there's one industry, it would lean towards construction, factory type work, warehouse type work," Helgerman said.

He said businesses will reach out to his department looking to hire sex offenders. They get a federal tax break for hiring the offender.

Sex offenders have strict requirements and limitations unique to each case. Some can't be close to schools, their victims or certain buildings. So many jobs like trucking are off limits.

"We don't allow people to do over-the-road trucking because that typically involves them leaving the state, and it's much more difficult to conduct the surveillance that we need to for the offenders we supervise," said Helgerman.

Felons come out of jail sometimes without any skills. The offenders can learn specialized skills through a trade school or even a temp agency.

Typically an employer knows a sex offender is working for them, but not always. And there's no legal requirement that a company notify its employees. Sometimes sex offenders work for a small company that doesn't do background checks, or they find jobs that have limited contact with people.

Drew has been able to find work.

"I did landscaping, window cleaning, property maintenance," he said.

But he's out of work again. He plans on starting his own window cleaning business soon to bypass the hiring roadblocks.

"I'm labeled," Drew said.

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