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Durham employer opens doors to those with prison in their past

Posted April 14

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— A Durham company dedicated to second chances is putting a small dent in the revolving door of crime and incarceration.

According to the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission, more than 40 percent of people who serve time in prison in North Carolina are arrested again after their release, and those who are unemployed have a higher chance of returning to prison.

But hiring practices make it more difficult for those with a criminal record to get a job. That is the problem that The Reuse Warehouse sets out to solve.

The business concept is simple: Take apart an old structure no one wants. Find the parts worth keeping. Give those parts a new life and resell them.

Reuse Warehouse owner Rick Morgan says his faith drives him to offer potential employees the same chance to rebuild a productive life after a criminal record.

"This is my way of loving my neighbor," Morgan says.

He doesn't discriminate against job applicants with records and pays them what he says is market rate at $10 per hour.

"We have a pretty high standard here," Morgan says. "We expect a lot of them, like any employer would expect of employees."

Reuse crewmember Teisha Scott is one of those getting a new start.

She was arrested at 16 for a misdemeanor offense. Years later, Scott said that record follows her like a shadow, limiting her ability to find work above minimum wage.

"They just don't give you a chance," Scott said. "I feel like everybody deserves a chance because everybody goes through things in their life."

Kenneth Peak has been through more ups and downs than most. At 42, he has a long record of incarceration.

"To be honest with you, three years is the longest I've ever been out of prison. I'm always in six months to a year," he said.

Peak said he turned to the streets after getting turned away from jobs.

"When you reach out for help, and you mean it, people don't take you seriously. So you know you're left here like you're on your own," he said.

At Reuse Warehouse, Peak is getting help to break that cycle.

"It's just up to you to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes," Scott said.

She's already been promoted to crew leader, and she hopes other employers will follow the example of Reuse Warehouse.

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