This is How it Should Be

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When Samantha was released from incarceration a month ago, she was worried. She had never had a job, she wasn’t familiar with the DC area, and so she thought her re-entry would be difficult to navigate. She had heard of the obstacles from others; how background checks made it difficult to get a job, how people turned away when they find out about your past, how unforgiving the world was when it came to those with a criminal record.

And while Samantha was prepared for all of this to happen, her experience so far has been quite the opposite: people have been understanding and willing to give her a chance.

When she was released into a halfway house, the house told her about Thrive DC’s Women’s Re-entry Program and she started attending Kimberly Gray’s classes.

“I’ve never felt supported and right away at Thrive Ms. Kim supported me, and I feel like I’m learning and retaining a lot from her. Her positive attitude shows me that she actually cares about my successes and is helping me to work towards the future I imagine for myself.”

She didn’t have anything – clothes, personal possessions, hygiene products – so Thrive set her up with everything she needed to get back on her feet. That first week, Ms. Kim helped Samantha create a resume and practiced interview skills with her. Then Ms. Kim took her to a local restaurant where she was hired on the spot.

When they hired Samantha, she was asked for an ID but didn’t have one yet because of her incarceration. She was faced with a decision: should she be honest and disclose her status or hide her past from her new employer?

Samantha chose honesty, and while many returning citizens who choose honesty get turned away, her employer was appreciative and said he wasn’t here to judge her and everyone deserves a second chance.

Samantha’s re-entry has far exceeded her expectations so far and she attributes it to the people she has met and the nonprofits/organizations who are helping her work through both emotional and physical barriers: her trauma, guilt, and employment opportunities. For Samantha, having Ms. Kim to talk to and learn from has made her transition so much smoother: “someone like her is a complete blessing when coming out.”