SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – Every year, more than 650,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons and, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately two-thirds will likely be re-arrested within three years of release. The prospects these individuals 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.
The DOJ notes that, “Assisting [justice-involved individuals] in finding and keeping employment, identifying transitional housing, and receiving mentoring are three key elements of successful re-entry into our communities.”
Numerous studies bear out that employment is an incredibly important factor in stabilizing someone’s life after their release from prison. Yet, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “approximately 60% of formerly incarcerated individuals struggle with unemployment” as compared to the relatively low unemployment rate for the general population.
In April – which is “Second Chance Month” as well as throughout the year, Goodwill Industries International and its network of Goodwill organizations – including Goodwill Manasota – is dedicated to ensuring that those who want to work and wish to better their lives have every opportunity to do so.
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.
As of March 31, 2023, Goodwill Manasota has hired 74 people whose primary disadvantaging condition is that they are justice involved. Last year, the organization provided services to a total of 184 people across all programs whose primary disadvantaging condition was that they were justice involved.
One of Goodwill’s second chance employees is Deshane Collins, 42. A gifted athlete who did well in school, Deshane was – unfortunately – pulled into the “family business” of selling drugs by his older brother. Even with a full scholarship to play football at Michigan State University, Deshane continued to sell drugs; he was caught and suspended. He was allowed to return to school but decided to move back to Bradenton where he went back to dealing – making as much as $5,000 per day. At the age of 23, he was arrested and charged with armed trafficking, which carried a minimum sentence of 25 years, but a clerical error on the police report resulted in a sentence of just 11 months (he served 10). He began reading The Bible in jail and decided, upon his release, never to go back to his old life.
Deshane worked as a case manager at the Salvation Army for 12 years and then was hired by Goodwill Manasota as a GoodPartner Coach in 2021. Since then, he has helped numerous community members to better their lives through career services. Additionally, he enrolled in Goodwill’s “Pursuit of Education” program – he expects to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2024, all paid for by Goodwill Manasota.
“With each person I help, I’m potentially helping a family. Then that person can go out and help someone and they are helping a family,” Deshane says. “If, five years down the road, I help five people, then they help five people, and so on … it impacts the entire community just because one individual was given the opportunity for a second chance.”
“At Goodwill, we believe that anyone who wants to work and strive for a better future deserves the opportunity to do so,” added 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 information, visit experiencegoodwill.org.
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.