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Success Story: Carmelton

Carmelton was enrolled in the Offender Success program after spending 29 years in prison. His reentry was anything but easy. After serving his time, Carmelton was released into a completely different world than the one he had known. To put this into perspective, he was 24 years old when he went to prison and 53 when released. When he left his home, the year was 1987. Ronald Reagan was President. There were no cell phones. The cost of a tank of gas was $.89 and the average monthly rent was $395. To make things worse, during his sentence, his identity was stolen and his credit devastated.

When Carmelton came to Goodwill, he felt his future was uncertain, but he knew he would work hard if given the opportunity. Along with the overwhelming adjustments Carmelton had to make, he also knew he needed help finding a job. His education ended at ninth grade and he had limited work experience. “Goodwill looked beyond that and saw I was willing and able and a hard worker,” Carmelton said. While at Goodwill, Carmelton learned how to prepare a résumé, and received interview skills and on-the-job skills training. “Everything that was necessary, Goodwill provided in order for me to get where I am today.” Goodwill case workers also connected Carmelton with help in cleaning up his credit and other issues associated with his identity theft.

While enrolled in the Managed Employment Program, Carmelton gained paid work experience in Goodwill’s Industrial Service Center performing tasks such as packaging and assembly work contracted with local businesses. His supervisor noticed that he took a leadership role, helped other program participants, was always punctual, and did his job over and above expectations. GoodTemps Temporary Staffing Services placed Carmelton into a number of temporary assignments and his employers reported that he was a terrific worker.

When a regular position as a textile baler in Goodwill’s retail processing division opened last October he interviewed and landed the job based on his solid work ethic and positive referrals.

“Everyone has treated me with respect and kindness. They have been so good to me and have never shown me any prejudice because of my past. I also like the work I do and I like having this experience to be able to build on,” he said.

In March, Carmelton was offered, and accepted, a position in Goodwill’s maintenance department furthering his training and development.

More than four in 10 offenders return to state prison within three years of their release. Carmelton believes that these numbers do not have to reflect everyone. He would like others to know that there is help for handling the tough transition and that there is hope. “I would advise others to never give up, focus, and weigh all options. It is not true that ‘people with felonies can’t find a job.’ I am a living witness.”

When talking about Goodwill, Carmelton says that he is very thankful, “My life has changed from being uncertain about how I was going to provide for myself, to being able to pay my own bills, and show others that it is possible. I truly feel blessed with Goodwill’s services, honesty, and commitment. Their overall compassion for people like me and others has been life changing. Thank you, Goodwill, for believing in me.”

Offender Success (OS) program (formerly called Prisoner Reentry) is a state-wide strategic approach to creating safer neighborhoods and better citizens through the delivery of a seamless plan of services, programming, support, and supervision for prisoners re-entering the community. Program participants are referred by the Michigan Department of Corrections Parole Board.

Managed Employment uses time-limited, wage-paying jobs that combine real work, skill development, and supportive services to transition participants rapidly and successfully into the labor market. Participants learn the customs and routines of work, establish an employment record, and generate employer references to enhance their competitiveness. Participation is through eligibility requirements determined through OS and EXIT programs.

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