PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — You’ve heard the saying, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A nonprofit organization is using that saying to put people to work and to make sure people returning from prison know their true worth.
“You’re learning what’s good, what’s bad, what has value and what doesn’t,” Patrick White, a former prisoner, said.
The good, the bad, the valuable. And the people who are learning the difference.
“You have to have a plan,” White said. “Without a plan, you’re freestyling, you’re just running blind.”
White has been coming to People Advancing Reintegration – Recycle Works every morning for the past six weeks. His plan is to make sure he doesn’t return to prison.
White is one of nine people who come at 8 a.m. every day.
The non-profit started 3 1/2 years ago. The founders are George and Mimi Limbach, and their basic goal during the work day is to recycle unwanted electronics.
But they say their mission is to speak to the human spirit for former prisoners.
“If somebody throws something away, it’s still valuable to somebody else,” Al Butcher, a former prisoner, said.
The analogy is hard to ignore. The same value they’re finding in these recycled computer towers is the same value they’re finding in themselves.
“Dignity has to be returned to individuals that are returning from prison,” Maurice Jones, of PAR Recycle Works, said. “They aren’t ex-offenders or ex-cons. They’re people.”
On paper, Jones may be the operations manager, but he’s really their confidant and cheerleader.
“I’ve got confidence and I’m proud of you everyday,” Jones said. “You’ve been doing good, bro, and it works. What you’ve been doing is working.”
Statistics say 67% of people who leave prison return within three years. But Jones says by giving these people a paycheck and workforce training, they’re putting them on the right track.
At PAR Recycle Works, only 2% of the 80 participants returned to prison.
“It’s part of the plan. I have it all written down, mapped out and now I just have to stick to it,” White said.
CBS3’s Howard Monroe reports.