BRADENTON/SARASOTA, FL – Every year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. But the prospects they face aren’t good: they will confront barriers to employment, housing and public benefits. Without the opportunity to successfully reintegrate back into society, many will fall back on old habits or succumb to desperation and find themselves back in prison.
President Joe Biden recently issued a proclamation marking April as Second Chance Month, a time to raise awareness of the challenges facing people with criminal backgrounds and to spotlight the important work being done by community-based organizations – like Goodwill – that empower second chance individuals to achieve career and life success.
At the national level and at affiliated regional organizations, Goodwill is a proud employer of and advocate for second chance individuals, offering them opportunities to engage in learning, skills development, work experience and holistic reintegration services. Public policies and systemic practices can contribute to barriers to opportunity, so Goodwill also seeks to advance policy solutions that help people impacted by the justice system have a second chance for success and a fair chance for employment.
At Goodwill Manasota, as of February, 58 team members (7% of the organization’s workforce) noted that their primary barrier to self-sufficiency was that they were ex-offenders. Across all of its programs, Goodwill Manasota served 165 ex-offenders, or 9.2% of program participants.
Some of Goodwill’s second chance employees include Sherry, who was molested by a family member for years, suffered through numerous abusive relationships, developed a drug habit and was jailed for six years. Now, she’s working for Goodwill, has ironed out all of her legal issues, is excelling at her job and working toward her Business Administration Certificate. Roy is a recovering alcoholic who, after being hired by Goodwill, has earned his GED (while on the clock and with financial support from Goodwill), became a Role Model Worker, is still working to pay off past fines and debts but now dreams of starting a business of his own. Sue is a recovering drug addict who, after her hiring by Goodwill, was rapidly promoted several times, from her initial job as a cashier to store manager. Bill spent 25 years going in and out of prison but, at the age of 40, decided it was time to straighten up. After months of searching for a job, Goodwill helped him with his job application and hired him, and now he regularly impresses his supervisor, who says she’d like “four more just like him.”
Manatee County Government has hired numerous employees through referrals from the Job Connection office at Turning Points. Carmine DeMilio, Parks & Grounds Operations Manager / ADA Compliance Coordinator for the Property Management Department of Manatee County Government notes that second chance employees have been hired for roles including code enforcement officers, building trades workers, parks maintenance technicians, and custodians and that, for the most part, the hires have worked out well.
“Studies show that employment is the most significant factor in reducing recidivism. We give them a chance, then invest in their success,” said DeMilio. “They, in turn, provide for themselves and their families and contribute to society. It gives them a sense of worth. Our practice allows us to be an important participant in the betterment of society.”
Numerous studies bear out that employment is an incredibly important factor in stabilizing someone’s life after their release from prison. Yet, according to “Out of Prison & Out of Work” by the Prison Policy Initiative, somewhere between 60-75% of ex-offenders remain unemployed after their release.
“At Goodwill, we believe that anyone who wants to work and strive for a better future deserves the opportunity to do so,” said Goodwill Manasota vice president Margie Genter. “We find that our second chance team members are extremely motivated to work – they are hardworking, reliable, and eager to get on the path to a stable, successful future. We are proud to help them get there.”
For more about Goodwill, go to experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.