LAFAYETTE, L.a. — The Department of Corrections is searching for local businesses to partner with it for its "Return for Good" felon re-entry program.
One local business, however, is ahead of the curve — Lafayette Marble and Granite.
Owner Chris Smith told KATC he's hired at least 5 former inmates to work at his business in the past several months as part of this partnership with the DOC — folks like Thomas "Tiger" Towery.
"A lot of times when you're dealing with the court systems or probation, parole, not too many places once they hear that, they don't want to be rude about it, but they don't call you," Towery said.
In and out of the system since the age of 14, Towery said his biggest personal battle has been with drugs in the past. Now, he told KATC he's living proof of the positivity this re-entry program can bring — just coming out from behind bars in November and starting work at LMG in February.
"That was the good thing about over here is that was the first thing Chris told me," Towery said. "He's like, 'Look, we believe in second chances over here, we'll give you a shot,' but it's not always the case depending on where you go, some places just turn their back."
Smith said partnering with the DOC was a no-brainer — and it's not about the glory or a tax credit from participating in the program. Rather, he told KATC it's about hiring hard workers and helping those who need it, especially since having and holding a job is a requirement for parole.
"For the things I've done wrong, I don't want to go into an interview with somebody and have to explain my life's history on things I've done wrong if it's not there," Smith said. "But for them, it's highlighted, there's a check on each of the things: 'Have you completed a crime? Felony?' have to check it, has to be explained. Most people at that point see that, leave it aside, say 'Oh, I don't need the headache.'"
When it comes to the paycheck, Smith noted that starting pay is usually $10 to $12 per hour depending on experience.
For Ricky Johnson, having a boss with this perspective makes all the difference — and he hopes the rest of the public can see things this way too.
"Incarceration for as long as we can remember has always had such a bad rap, and so it creates a perspective in people's minds and a lot of times when we look at a person who's been in situations like that we kinda look at it through that translation," Johnson said.
For more information on how you can get involved in the program, you can email Laura Smith, DOC Regional Program Manager, at Laura.Smith@la.gov.
On Tuesday, we asked for your thoughts on whether the program was a good idea. Out of 73 people who voted, 72 said YES, the program is a good idea. Only one person voted NO.
The poll is below:
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
To reach the newsroom or report a typo/correction, click HERE.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Evening News Headlines, Latest COVID-19 Headlines, Morning News Headlines, Special Offers