Employment

The Good Teacher - Zuleyma's Story

Zuleyma was known as a “good teacher” to her students and colleagues during the years she taught K-12. But her career in education came to an abrupt halt when she was arrested for selling drugs. An abusive partner had gradually come to have more and more control over Zuleyma, pressuring her to do whatever it took to keep her partner happy. That included selling drugs and becoming cut off from family and friends. In this video, Zuleyma explains what happened next.

Interview and videography by Greta Smith.

The Good Teacher - Chapter 4: Making a Positive Life

20180510_Zuleyma photo.jpg

Upon my release, I started to contact Portland State University and advocate for support to get in the counseling program. I really wanted to get back into school but wasn’t successful in getting responses, so I started looking for jobs in the trades.

I was released from Coffee Creek on May 20, 2016 and did not have a place to go. I ended up living in a halfway house until my parole officer would approve the housing situation with my family. I started to look for work and got temporary jobs as a labor worker. I also completed the Oregon Tradeswomen program. I bounced around from one construction site to another for about a year and now I have a permanent position. This is a physically demanding job and I always do my best and appreciate the opportunity. I support these trade programs unconditionally because women are very capable of doing these type of jobs in our industries in Oregon.

More importantly, I see the world differently and want to share this experience with others and try to tell my story to help others feel supported when facing drugs and violence in their lives. I feel it is my responsibility to help reduce domestic violence and help people facing mental illness and addiction in the community. I also want to be an advocate for those considering suicide.

Ailene's Story

When Ailene left Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, she quickly found a job working in fast food and started to volunteer at a detox facility. She soon realized that, with the many barriers she faced as a formerly incarcerated woman, she needed to go back to school because education would be the key to building a new life for herself and her children. She's a passionate advocate for more educational opportunities for currently and formerly incarcerated people.

According to the New York Times:

"That prison education programs are highly cost effective is confirmed by a 2013 RAND Corporation study that covered 30 years of prison education research. Among other things, the study found that every dollar spent on prison education translated into savings of $4 to $5 on imprisonment costs down the line.

Other studies suggest that prisons with education programs have fewer violent incidents, making it easier for officials to keep order, and that the children of people who complete college are more likely to do so themselves, disrupting the typical pattern of poverty and incarceration."

This video was produced and edited by Avalon Edwards, who is a rising junior at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. She chose to intern with the Women’s Justice Project this summer because she wanted to learn more about the unique and often overlooked challenges that incarcerated women face.

Isabel's Story

Isabel describes her experience of incarceration in Oregon and the challenges of accessing programming in prison that can help rehabilitate people or train them for new careers after prison. She believes better access to trade programs in particular would help prepare women for life outside. But even for those who have managed to learn a trade in prison, finding an employer who's willing to take a chance on someone who's been incarcerated is one of the major challenges of life after incarceration.

Isabel experienced houselessness before going into prison. She feels fortunate to have found agencies to help her with money after her release to secure housing. But persuading a landlord to look at a formerly incarcerated person as a tenant can be as difficult as finding work.