BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Many families live paycheck to paycheck, robbing Peter to pay Paul, even with two household incomes. A new Federal Reserve survey shows, despite the strong job market, that is not enough to help with the rising cost of living.
Criminal justice reform advocates said financial stress becomes a bigger concern when a family member is convicted of a crime and sent to prison, causing families to pick up side jobs to handle the extra financial responsibilities.
Demetricy Moore, 48, was convicted of second-degree murder and served 24 years in prison. She was released in March of this year and is currently looking for a job.
“I just need a chance. My daughter is helping me. I have a college degree in Christian ministry. My conviction has nothing to do with my work ethic. Before you judge based on what paper say, give me a chance to see how I would work with the company. I’m not what I’ve been convicted of. My charge will not reflect the work I will put forward in the company,” said Moore.
Gail Willers, 70, also was convicted of murder. She served 33 years in prison and was released in December 2022. Willers is waiting to get information about her Social Security benefits. While she waits, she is looking for a job to make ends meet.
“It’s been a battle for six months,” Willers said. “So to survive with nothing after 33 years of incarceration and to find a job that would hire an older women that’s been in prison for 33 plus years and soon to be 71 years old, it’s been difficult.”
The Louisiana Parole Project in Baton Rouge is trying to help those with criminal convictions find jobs and erase the stigma of incarceration. The advocacy group has created the Employment Enhancement Program to bridge the gap between companies and those who will soon be released from prison.
“Two things that help a person succeed. One is a support system. Two is economic stability. If you don’t have either or, it poses a big problem,” said Timothy Wilkinson, project manager at The Parole Project, which serves more than 400 clients and provides housing. Its recidivism rate is less than 2%.
Wilkinson said, “Employers have to understand and come to grips with folks who have been incarcerated. They have more to offer you than any average person.”
The Parole Project has helped 63-year-old Juan Dupeire find a cooking job. He served 31 years in prison for second-degree murder and was released in December 2022.
“I can cook with the best. I have cooked with the best,” Dupeire stated.
Before prison, he prepared meals for high-profile people in the state, but even with an impressive resume, he’s experiencing another challenge.
Research shows that formerly incarcerated people are paid less than others for the same position. Dupeire said, “It kind of gets aggravating, because I’m grateful for what I have. I have to start somewhere. I keep telling myself I have to keep on establishing.”
The Parole Project is working to set up Zoom interviews with companies and people who will soon be released from prison. The goal is to have jobs lined up before they go home.
Tax credits are given to companies that hire those who are formerly incarcerated.