James Byrd, an ex-offender living in Monroe, Michigan, was enrolled in the Prisoner Re-Entry Program at Michigan Works! Monroe Service Center. He was incarcerated for 13 years and was released in November 2014.
James was referred to Michigan Works! by his Parole Agent. He signed up with Michigan Works on December 5, 2014. James was receiving Food Stamps, he was dual enrolled in the Food Assistance Employment and Training Program (FAE&T) along with the Prisoner ReEntry Program. Cari Grahl, Re-Entry Liaison, met with James to review his barriers and employment goals. James’s barriers were that he needed work clothes, substance abuse issues and transportation funds.
James was job ready and wanted to get employment right away. He worked with Cari to create a resume. James was able to get the funds to get his driver’s license renewed. In no time he was ready to go, following up on job leads that were provided by the Re-Entry Liaison. James stated, “Cari was one of my angels and a great help.” With that determination, James got an interview with Clean Tech.
James got hired in at Clean Tech but had another barrier. He needed work boots and gas cards since the job was located in Dundee, Michigan. With the supportive services that Michigan Works! could provide, he was able to accept the position. The Re-Entry Liaison purchased work boots and provided him with gas cards to get back and forth to employment. James was hired at Clean Tech in January of 2015, working 40 plus hours per week with a starting pay of $11.00 per hour.
James just celebrated his one year anniversary with Clean Tech. He now earns $12.90 per hour. While working at Clean Tech, James became certified to drive a sit down forklift. His file closed in July of 2015, but James still stops in at Michigan Works! to let his Cari know how he is doing.
James is still sober and attends monthly meetings. It took a lot of hard work but he never wants to go back to where he was. He stated, “That was the last 20 years of my life and I am now looking forward to the rest of my life.” James also gives back to the community by volunteering at Paula’s House. He stated, “Paula Whitman has always been in my corner and I wanted to not only give back to the community but to her.” James often looks back at where he was, how and where he ended up and where he is now. He is happy and at peace. He recently moved into his first apartment by himself. James is a perfect example that hard work pays off. He not only has his family support but the community support. James has more goals to reach and with his positive attitude, he will accomplish them.