Battleship relieves volunteer of duties over criminal history, allows inmates to work on ship

Battleship relieves volunteer of duties over criminal history, allows inmates to work on ship
WECT's Bill Murray will be talking about a special fundraiser this weekend that will help the restoration of the Battleship North Carolina.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Battleship North Carolina relieved a volunteer of all duties related to public interaction after watching a WECT story in which he spoke about forgiveness after a felony conviction.

Anthony Shook had been volunteering with the battleship for months before management saw the on-air story.

Shook was never asked about a criminal history, and the battleship does not background check their volunteers. However, he was limited in his duties after staff discovered he had been convicted of a felony more than 30 years prior.

Battleship Captain Terry Bragg said the ship follows New Hanover County School guidelines for hiring volunteers, but the New Hanover County School System conducts background checks and makes it possible for a person with a criminal background to be hired.

After receiving an anonymous tip, WECT found out inmates from New Hanover County correctional facilities work on the battleship, and have been for years. Jerry Higgins with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety confirmed this information Friday.

Representatives from the New Hanover County local re-entry council, which works to help educate the community about the barriers previously incarcerated individuals face when re-entering society, said restrictions such as the one taken by the battleship cause more harm to the community.

"Folks have done their time in prison and jails. They have paid the price," said council member Hyun Namkoong. "They have been separated from their families, they have lost so many things while incarcerated. And they are coming back, often times to a community that is not willing to accept them. A lot of times I even wonder about that term re-entry because I see a lot of the folks we are working with who are more than ready to re-enter, but the real question is, are we?"

Namkoong works closely with Frankie Roberts, founder of LINC Wilmington.

Roberts, who has been working to help those with criminal records for 17 years, says everyone deserves a second chance.

"In this work, I find that when we look at the recidivism rate, the recidivism rate primarily is tied to unforgiveness," said Roberts. "What we've found in doing this work over the last 17 years is that when a community of people make it hard to do the right thing, then the wrong thing becomes eminent."

Roberts also stressed the importance of forgiveness.

"Recognize that who you are is not based on your successes or failures," he said. "We cannot hold a person to their worst mistake. When we're not a forgiving group, we are holding a person to their worst mistake in life"

Representatives from the battleship said they would provide WECT with a statement on the situation Tuesday. However, we have yet to hear back despite multiple calls and emails.

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