Yesterday I had a long conversation with a gentleman who served 17 years in prison. He has been home for nine months, and he is working as a street sweeper. I didn’t tell him, but I was so proud of him because he made the decision to become a productive member of society, even though it meant starting with a low wage, blue-collar job.
Many Returning Citizens refuse to hold such positions because they have lived lavish lifestyles prior to incarceration and they believe certain jobs are beneath them.
Ironically, when a person is incarcerated, he/she will clean toilets without hesitation. Sometimes this means cleaning toilets for 12 cents an hour. Often the labor is a direct order from a correctional officer. Refusing to clean could mean time in segregation, where the person would be locked in a cell alone for days.
This gentleman I met yesterday has aspirations to join a union and establish a career as a journeyman. He is in an apprenticeship class and preparing for several interviews.
He is driven and optimistic.
Even with all that he has going for himself he still decided to sweep the streets for now knowing that maintaining employment will help him successfully reintegrate.
He has made up his mind not to return to prison.