QUEENS — Returning home after being incarcerated is daunting. Spending time behind bars can be daunting. Many find there are barriers to finding sustainable employment and say they feel judged and lost.
However, The Fortune Society in Queens, works around the clock to battle the stigma surrounding these individuals and for the first time offered a unique event for those looking to interview for a new job.
It may seem like a simple concept, but dozens of men learned how to put on a tie — and for many of them, it was the first time.
From the moment they did, you saw it. The determination to take on the world.
“It makes me feel great. It makes me feel loved. It makes me feel like somebody. It makes me feel like I can be somebody,” said Edward Washington, who was most recently imprisoned for possession of a controlled substance.
For 50 years, The Fortune Society worked with the formerly incarcerated by creating programs to help men and women assimilate back to into society. On Wednesday, with neckties donated from J.Crew, there was a lesson on how one portrays themselves in front of a potential employer.
“You get the judgement. You feel belittled as if you don’t compare to other people,” said Franceley Millien, who served time for fraud.
Many of the men interviewed by PIX11 had interviews shortly after we spoke with them. According to Fortune Society, nearly all of their participants have little or no income, and urgently need assistance to obtain a living wage employment. The organization also said 64% of new participants that enrolled in The Fortune Society in 2015 had less than $1,000 of income per month at intake, with 75% of those participants having no income whatsoever.