Found a fantastic post in LUFKIN.
On a recent Thursday morning, Maurice Watts arrived at a small, red-brick structure while wearing black athletic wear and a baseball cap from the Houston Astros.
He had just finished a 12-hour shift operating an 18-wheeler for Common Disposal, a saltwater transport business with offices in Watts' hometown of San Augustine in rural East Texas. Watts had an envelope containing $238 in his hand. The Legacy Institute for Financial Education, a non-profit with headquarters in Lufkin, Texas, had received a loan of $1,350 from him, and this was the first of six repayments.
Watts stated, "I'm trying to do better than I have in the past.”
Watts was let out of jail in January. In Beaumont's federal prison, he had spent the previous four years serving out his sentence.
Watts had limited work opportunities after being released because he was 43 years old and had no college education. It would be challenging to reenter the workforce.
Through LIFE, Watts received employment training, obtained a short-term loan to cover food and gas, and improved his communication skills, all of which helped him find stable work as a commercial truck driver.
Thousands of other Texans with criminal histories who suffer after being released from jail do not experience Watts' route to reintegration, though. Even after serving their terms, ex-offenders frequently face collateral repercussions, which are obstacles that prolong a person's punishment beyond incarceration.
The two biggest problems are finding accommodation and a job. People with criminal histories are frequently disqualified by landlords and employers.
It's difficult to obtain any employment after you cross the line into criminality, according to Watts. "Then you sit there and beat yourself up, and you have low self-esteem."
For a long time, supporters of those who have been incarcerated have advocated for more benevolent state laws that would make reentering society easier. They ask for several changes, including the automatic expungement of criminal records for those who meet the requirements and the elimination of license restrictions that hinder ex-offenders from entering certain professions. However, Texas has had a difficult time implementing new policies.
Nonprofit organizations like LIFE are filling the gap created by governmental policy by assisting those who have served time in prison.
Joseph Ceasar, a Houston-born preacher who had previously worked as a financial advisor before deciding to engage in the charity sector, created LIFE.
26 of the 52 individuals who have been a part of the reintegration program since it started last year have finished a course in education or professional development. Nobody has gone back to jail.
For more details, go here.
Thinking about the future
Watts spends five days a week behind the wheel of a truck moving saltwater. On his day off, he occasionally takes on another shift to earn extra money.
Despite the long hours and exhausting nature of his profession, Watts recharges by viewing movies on his phone and keeping up with baseball statistics while on breaks.
He considers his future as well.
He intends to continue working for the trucking company for a few more years to save money. After that, he plans to launch his own company in hot shot trucking, which entails hauling shorter-duration loads. He claims that two of his sons will handle the business as a family.
"I'm a strong-minded person, so if I get my mind set on anything, that's pretty much what I'm going to do," Watts said.
He is still unsure of the exact workings of the company or how he and his boys will make it successful. Taylor and Caesar are, nonetheless, willing to help out.
Here's where we come in, Caesar said. He is an expert in the field, and we are familiar with corporate management. We'll check to see if he's heading in the correct direction there.
Disclosure: The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, unbiased news organization that receives funding in part from membership dues, foundation grants, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters of The Texas Tribune include The ACLU of Texas, The University of Texas at Austin, and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin. The Tribune's journalism is independent of its financial backers. Here is a complete list of all of them.
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