Finding employment after being in prison can be next to impossible.
Not only do these people have to battle the stigma of a criminal record, they are also barred from some types of jobs entirely, including those in the childcare, education and healthcare fields. It’s no wonder that so many ex-felons turn back to a life of crime just to get by; two-thirds are re-arrested within three years of their release.
But in Little Rock, Ark., one woman has given thousands of former inmates a second chance to contribute to society.
For the past three decades, Darlene Lewis’s nonprofit organization, the Lewis-Burnett Employment Finders Inc., has helped ex-offenders prepare for interviews, assisted with job placement and provided help with resume writing and GED prep — all at no cost.
Last year alone, the nonprofit aided 2,000 men and women find full-time jobs, reports say. The organization also helps with housing and advocates for offenders in court.
Yes, it costs a lot of money to help a former felon find gainful employment, but reducing the rate of recidivism ultimately saves the country even more. According to Lewis-Burnett, about $3.6 million in taxpayer money is saved for every 100 ex-offenders who avoid rearrest or living on welfare.
Lewis started her nonprofit in 1987 for very personal reasons. “I had a son go to prison many years ago and when he got out of prison it was so difficult for him to get a job,” she tells the station.
In a touching radio broadcast, former inmate James Taylor (who served seven years for weapons possession and drug charges) describes the “almost impossible” task of finding jobs. After getting in touch with Lewis, she was able to help him find a job at a local McDonalds as a manager. Although he lost the job and admits he could have easily found “quick money” by going back on the streets, he went back to Lewis, who was right there to help him back on track. Taylor now works as a videographer and a youth mentor and also volunteers at the nonprofit.
“She saves people, she need a cape”, he said. “There are two types of people in the world, the givers & the takers. The takers may eat better but the givers always sleep better.”
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