Stepping Up for Fair Chances
Today politicians, influencers, advocates, and business leaders gathered at The White House to announce a major win for formerly incarcerated individuals returning home under The First Step Act — a Fair Chance at employment.
From the private sector to the Department of Energy, business leaders and cabinet officials announced new opportunities for the thousands of individuals who will be released over the next few months and in need of employment upon reentering society.
Since the First Step Act passed, we have seen unprecedented interest in ensuring that people who come home have a fair chance at success. From the energy sector to retail, employers are stepping up to offer a fair shot at employment to formerly incarcerated individuals.
A long time Fair Chance Employment champion, Tom Decker, President of Chicago Green Insulation, hopes to hire up to 18 new employees released under the First Step Act this year. “We’ve all made mistakes, and returning citizens are tagged as the worst action in their lives,” Decker says. Seeing past that has made Chicago Green Insulation a thriving business and renowned Fair Chance Employer.
Among some of the amazing individuals who have come home because of the First Step Act this year are Katherine Toney, DeWayne Lucas, Yvonne Fountain, and Troy Powell — all individuals who found employment shortly after exiting prison. In fact, before Yvonne was incarcerated, her employer made her a promise: as soon as she got out, they would rehire her.
“Yes, I went to prison. I did my time. I was good the whole time. I worked. I stayed out of trouble. I programmed. I did what I needed to do.”
— Yvonne Fountain
Keeping up her skills in the kitchen while incarcerated paid off when she was released under the First Step Act in February; Yvonne swiftly returned to her position at Holiday Inn as a cook.
For DeWayne Lucas, being released from prison months earlier than he anticipated allowed him to put his plans into action. DeWayne has been a self starter since his release from federal prison in January of this year. “I own and drive a dump truck for a living and it amazes many people how hard I work, but I am determined to never return to a life of crime.” Lucas is now a free man providing for his family. This Sunday will mark the first Father’s Day he’s spent with is children outside of prison in 13 years.
Troy Powell was also among one of the first FSA releases, and was included at a ceremony celebrating the First Step Act hosted by The White House in early April (hear more about that in Troy’s feature on Thick Skin with Jeff Ross). After 15 years of incarceration, Powell was released from prison in February. While incarcerated, he took courses and trained to be an electrician — leading to his quick employment by Boone Lumber Company immediately following his release.
Katherine Toney was the first woman to be released from federal prison under the First Step Act. She has been working for Walmart for several months now, and isn’t looking back. Toney gained back five years under the First Step Act, and will be spending that time in the workforce instead of behind bars.
Thanks to the countless employers stepping up to offer this new wave of First Step Act releases meaningful jobs, Katherine, Yvonne, Troy, and DeWayne will not be the only ones getting a fair chance at employment after prison.