This is a guest post from Dawn Grimes, Vice President Business & Enterprise Development at RecycleForce
RecycleForce is an Indianapolis based social enterprise – a business with a social mission – offering comprehensive and innovative electronic recycling services while providing life-changing workforce training to formerly incarcerated individuals. Delivering assured destruction and certified recycling, RecycleForce manually de-manufactures, mechanically shreds and separates corporate retiring IT, throw-away consumer electronics, and large scale retail recall and overstock products. Sub-materials are sent to refiners for reclamation and recycling helping RecycleForce to achieve a high – often 100% – recycle rate on e-waste. The metals, plastic and other reusable materials that are sold to refiners help pay for job training programs and employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated men and women, supporting their re-entry back into society.
RecycleForce has experienced tremendous growth not only in recycling and destruction services, but also in job training. In 2006, RecycleForce had two workers who processed 600,000 pounds of material. Today, more than 75 employees process in excess of 11 million pounds of material annually, while getting training and learning skills that transfer to work in environmental services, warehouse operations, logistics and other industries.
Formerly incarcerated individuals face a difficult path upon release. They often leave prison in debt for costs associated with incarceration and/or child support arrearage. Most have no job prospects and few opportunities to earn wages to live, let alone pay user fees for correctional oversight, mandated drug and alcohol testing and counseling/treatment services, or other release mandates. Many also are without family supports and things many of us take for granted, like a place to live, work clothes, and a valid driver’s license. Without these foundational elements, the rate of return to the criminal justice system is incredibly high. Historically, about half of those released to Indianapolis/Marion County from prison return to prison within three years, the majority on a technical rules violation, often involving unpaid fees or restitution.
I have had the incredible opportunity of seeing RecycleForce graduates use what they learned to not only avoid returning to prison, but to thrive and prosper in full-time jobs. RecycleForce graduate, Chris Holt, is one such graduate with a truly remarkable success story.
Coming to RecycleForce in 2013, Chris quickly realized he had an opportunity to develop skills that would enable him to earn a living, and he learned that through building good credit, he could establish himself in a business. He saved for a truck and, in true entrepreneurial fashion, began networking to provide snow removal, lawn care, recycling pick up service and related work around the community. Many of his referrals came from RecycleForce. Today Chris has a 5,000 square foot commercial building which also houses a nonprofit he founded that provides an entrepreneurship program for youth.
RecycleForce serves 300 or more individuals annually, with more than 60% of them being placed in full-time employment, and the longitudinal return to prison rate at RecycleForce is about a third of the national average. Chris is just one example of how RecycleForce’s transitional jobs program changes lives.
About Dawn Grimes:
Dawn Grimes is Vice President Business & Enterprise Development at RecycleForce.