When McCary was 17, police arrested him after he broke into a neighbor’s store and stole a handful of items while out drinking one night with friends. The ill-conceived teenage adventure became a lifelong burden when authorities charged McCary with four felonies.
The state of Texas is one of six states that charge 17-year-olds as adults. McCary spent a year in state jail. He’s stayed out of trouble since then, but nearly 20 years later, he still has a record as a convicted felon.
For McCary, that’s meant decades of difficulty finding a job and taking care of his family. When oil prices are high, he finds work in the fields. When prices fall, he competes for other jobs with workers who don’t have a felony record. McCary had a lead on a job as a school janitor, but it fell through because of his teenage conviction.
When McCary’s wife tragically died in an automobile accident last fall, he discovered new hurdles: As a convicted felon, he’s not allowed to manage his wife’s estate. A friend and Christian mentor volunteered to be the executor, but the experience was another tough blow during a particularly hard time.
“The list of what I can do is shorter than what I can’t do,” says McCary. “I’ve never experienced the full liberty of America as an adult.”
Elizabeth was thrilled to accept the Travis County Women Lawyers' Association public interest award at the Four Seasons in Austin Texas today.
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