- Stephen Simonetto
- RecycleForce workers separate waste into its useful parts.
The workers at Indy's RecycleForce understand the value of discarded objects. Society cast them off, too — into the criminal justice system. The program is designed to train ex-offenders for the private-sector workforce and help them overcome any number obstacles that may prevent successful re-integration into society.
With success after success notched to its credit, RecycleForce has grown from two employees in 2006 to employ 16 full-time staff and around 50 ex-offenders cycling through its training programs on a given week.
RecycleForce has grown steadily more efficient in its process and effective at identifying new markets. Its team has recycled more than 11 million pounds of recyclable materials since its inception.
In addition to forklift certification, team members can tackle certifications in the safe handling of hazardous materials, warehouse safety, and prevention of sexual harassment. Some examples of advancement include people earning commercial drivers' licenses, learning to read and entering a welding apprenticeship.
As Calvin Houston, the firm's job development director, puts it, RecycleForce "is the only place in the whole state where you're more accepted if you have a criminal past."
He's had his own "brushes" with the law, which, when he deals with people emerging from the criminal justice system, adds to his credibility.
Houston manages the flow of services for all new clients, including the arrangement of a host of various training sessions, personal development, housing, probation negotiations and transportation assistance.
"We identify their barriers and eliminate them the best we can," Houston said during an interview in his office.
The goal is that after four months of the program, they're economically viable, set with a plan to handle their obligations to the courts, their children, themselves and society.
"People are asking constantly what do we do," RecycleForce President Gregg Keesling said in a February interview.
"I think as much as anything we're just believing in people and empowering them, allowing them to make mistakes without making their past and their mistake coming together and distressing them. That's everybody from a murderer to former a crack addict, to pedophile."
"My goal is to make relationships with employers willing to give people a second chance," Houston said."I think we're giving them a great skill set for a warehouse professional."