When I came home in 2004 I knew that I was blessed to have a HUGE supporting cast of people whom actually believed that I could succeed. My family did an amazing job with making sure that I had some of the bare necessities that they thought that I needed in order to reintegrate back into a real society.
Culture shocked, I really did not have any actual idea of what was necessary to succeed, but continued to work toward learning the mechanics of how an adult should move without the sound of a whistle blowing. Its a challenge too! Faced with the realities of making a bad decision in order to survive, a lot of guys are not as blessed as I was to have two of the most vital things that an ex-felon needs in order to stay out of prison: safe housing and gainful employment.
Before I launched the Flikshop mobile app, I worked as a paint store clerk. I would mix and sell paint to patrons at the top of 14th St. in the busiest section of Washington, DC for construction work. Having walked out of prison and into safe housing (thanks Mom!) I started my job search. While job hunting, the only job that the stupid background check could bypass (as an current employer, I can understand why most employers ask the question...but you cannot tell me that this is a true disqualifier for EVERY applicant that has to check "YES" when asked if they have been convicted of a felony) seemed to be in the construction field. The paint store paid slightly over minimum wage, with the promise that if I performed well that I would be eligible for promotions within the company. After a year or so, I swiftly moved through the ranks and before I knew it I was making great money and had been promoted to a coveted position.
Being able to live comfortably in my mother's home, facing the reality that I could not do anything to disrupt her safe and quiet living, I had both of the two vitals under lock and key...literally. I had a job and I had somewhere to live.
Fast forward to today...that job at the paint store turned into my eventual launch of my own remodeling company and Flikshop. I was even able to remodel that same home for my mother as a gift for Christmas a year after I was released.
The opportunity for success only comes to those whom are prepared for it. Lets take the time to think about how we're preparing our inmates for their eventual release. Are you asking them questions about what "job skills" and "interview skills" courses they are enrolled in (if any) at their facility? Are they prepared for home duties and family activities that will keep them busy when not working? Have you researched what companies hire ex-felons? These are all ways that we can help some of our men and women reduce these horrendous recidivism rates.
The country's inmate population needs more than neighborhood programs and prayer meetings. Lets pool together and create change for these guys BEFORE they come home!