September 28, 2021

By all accounts, Rudy Carey had a hard childhood. When he was 18, his father—who raised him alone—was in a car accident. Rudy was forced to make the gut-wrenching decision to take him off life support. Like so many others faced with trauma, Carey turned to drugs and alcohol, which, in turn, led to a few stints in prison. That was decades ago.

But now, nearly 15 years later, Rudy’s past indiscretions continue to haunt him. After getting out of prison, getting married, and turning his life around, Rudy decided to dedicate his life to helping others going through the same struggles he’d overcome himself. He started working as a case manager at a homeless shelter, and then, after completing 200 credit-hours, Rudy became a substance-abuse counselor. For five years he worked as a counselor, helping others struggling with the addictions he’d kicked many years ago.

But his new-found career fell apart in 2018, when the facility was sold and the state sent a letter saying that he was banned from working as a substance-abuse counselor there—or anywhere else in the commonwealth—forever. Against his managers’ wishes, they had to let him go. Today he works as a long-haul truck driver.

But Rudy hasn’t given up on his calling. Today, he partnered with the Institute for Justice (IJ)—a nonprofit public interest law firm—to sue the state for his right to work. Rudy’s lawsuit seeks to put an end to Virginia’s unconstitutional “permanent punishment” law that prevents Virginians from working in a long list of professions because of irrelevant past criminal convictions.

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