When I was younger I was arrested for drug possession and served four years at the women’s prison in Shakopee. After I was released seven years ago, I was fortunate to get a job with Solid Comfort, which makes furniture for hotels.
I was promoted several times and worked closely with our plant manager. Together we began creating a plan to hire people like me.
We started reaching out to halfway houses, probation officers, drug court supervisors, and other groups to find people who were motivated to succeed, needed a job to pay bills, and wanted a career with advancement potential. We began speaking to community groups, such as Midwest Manufacturer’s Association and Greater Fargo Area Economic Development. We offered an open house to show opportunities for people who needed a second chance. In 2017, we named this program Solid Start.
We have hired hundreds of people. Not everyone is successful at it, but 75 percent of our production workforce comes from the Solid Start initiative. We employ felons, the formerly incarcerated, people in recovery, people on the autism spectrum, people with mental health issues, and people with learning limitations.
Last year, the North Dakota governor appointed me to serve on the state’s Prison Industries Advisory Committee. I am a volunteer with a jail ministry program in Moorhead. I serve as a mentor at Crossing Home, a sober-living, Christian halfway house for women in Clay County, Minnesota.
I feel blessed to have the opportunity to share my testimony, encourage women, and answer questions about recovery and reentry. We speak at Shakopee and other jails and prisons, churches, business gatherings, and with community leaders.
Mine has been a long journey. Every time I share my story, I feel stronger. I lost myself for many years, but now I feel like my life has a purpose. I am so very, very blessed.
I have spent 20 years in and out of the justice system, beginning when I was 13. I recently began a position at RS EDEN, which offers supportive housing, recovery, and reentry services. I work with individuals transitioning from incarceration into the community.
It was in my third stay at the prison in Shakopee that I took a sociology course where I learned what Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) were, what my score was, and how that impacted me. This information changed my life.
I have some big questions that I intend to find answers to. I am on the Minnesota Evidence-Based Practice Advisory Council. I believe my role there will be to shine a light on the places where the system fails.
Currently I am working towards advocating for more access to mental health and healing services within facilities. I am now in a position at my job, and through the Advisory Council, to seek people in positions of power to impact change in this area.
There is a lot more to my story and I am committed to this work for the rest of my life.
Soon at womenspress.com: A deeper conversation with Madeline M. Young