GRETNA, LA—When Lenard Veal isn't driving a cab in Jefferson Parish, he's working his second job at a health club or his third job as a security guard. He's a registered voter who has chauffeur and security guard licenses, CPR and first aid certifications, and a conceal carry permit in Jefferson Parish. He's even been cleared to take the state bail bond test. But Veal still can't get the job he really wants -- driving a cab in Orleans Parish.
"If you're a convicted felon and you had drugs, you're permanently disqualified to drive cabs in New Orleans," Veal says.
18 years ago, Veal was arrested for selling drugs on Ames Boulevard. It's his only crime, and he served his time for nine months in a boot camp program. Since then, he's worked every way he can to improve his life and overcome his past. He says the law that prevents him from becoming a cab driver in New Orleans dates back to the 1950s.
" "It takes you less than 60 seconds to get in trouble, and it will take you a lifetime to get out of it," Veal said.
Veal has another option, a pardon by the governor. In October 2009, the Parole Board voted unanimously, 5-0, recommending Veal receive a pardon. But it has never come.
Governor Jindal's office is keeping its response short. "We do not discuss pending pardons," said a spokesman.
The city acknowledged the cabbie conviction law, but at deadline time, nobody was available to speak on the issue.
"I got 18 years crime free. I got a lot of stuff to show for it but the system says no," said Veal. "Nobody wants to give you a second chance because today's society doesn't believe in second changes. God forgave; a man won't. And I tell people if you don't give a first offender a chance, he's going to become a second offender."