Petition circulating offers seasonal job for ex-cons

Long-term lucrative jobs aren’t easy to come by after serving time in Colorado prisons, and the occupation of collecting petition signatures to put initiatives on the ballot during campaign season is no exception.   

Denver’s 9NEWS aired a story this week, reporting that yes, some hired petition circulators have a criminal history when they ask registered voters to sign their name and address supporting a cause:

Court records show signature gatherer Ferrell Griffin was sentenced in 2007 for drug possession. Police had already busted him twice before in 2002 and 1992. He’s on parole and gathering signatures for ballot issues in Denver this year.

Secretary of State records show John Bizzell gathered signatures in Pueblo this year too. He’s a registered sex offender who is back in prison on drug charges.

John Respondek has a criminal record that dates back to 1996. He’s been convicted of theft five times since 1996. His record also includes trespassing and harassment.

9Wants to Know caught up with Respondek while he was gathering signatures in Denver.

When asked if he’d been arrested before, he replied "No," to investigative reporter Jace Larson. He later admitted to his record, but said he sees nothing wrong with his line of work.

"I’m a new person, that was when my life was uncontrollable and I was out of control and it was petty stuff," said Respondek.

A state inmate receives a $100 release allowance upon leaving prison for the first time, but if an inmate has returned to prison to be released again, no allowance is given, leaving some ex-cons with no financial resources and few job opportunities.

And while a temporary job as a signature collector my provide meager wages of $1.00 or $2.00 per signature, it’s one way for former inmates to start earning income.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at

Comments are closed.