Elkhart Plastics has welcomed workers from the South Bend Community Re-entry Center since April 2016. We currently have 19 participants from the center on the team at our Middlebury plant. Whether they are able to stay with us once they are fully released or not, we are happy to help them re-acclimate into the work world and proud to be part of their journey.

Snippets of an article published by The South Bend Tribune about the program if included below.

South Bend center gives prisoners a chance at new life

SOUTH BEND — Sebastian Galan Jr. wears his nine years of incarceration in the tattoos that adorn his face, his hands, his neck, even the spider web draped over his shaved skull.

He’s finally looking forward to being released into a community transition program in early December. Luckily, he says, the ink he gathered over several years in prison is more common in workplaces than it was when he was arrested for dealing cocaine in Elkhart.

Back in the recession, he had lost his job, and he took to selling drugs as the only way he could see to pay the mounting bills.

“It was still a bad choice,” he says, “but at that time it was the lesser of the bad choices.”

Most prisoners leave Indiana’s Department of Correction at the end of their sentences with $50 and a set of street clothes. But Galan, and others like him who will spend several months to two years at the South Bend Community Re-entry Center before their release, will leave with a job and potentially thousands of dollars they’ve earned.

Susan Droptiny, human resources and safety manager for Elkhart Plastics, has found it tough to hire and keep employees for the company’s biggest factory, in Middlebury. Elkhart Plastics also has operations in Elkhart and South Bend.

The lowered unemployment rate in Elkhart County has ratcheted up competition for dependable workers, Droptiny says. Like Schaeffer at Alliance Sheets, Droptiny was first introduced to the idea of hiring the re-entry center’s inmates through a staffing service.

Since April, Elkhart Plastics has employed about 25 from the center, 13 currently, and kept about four after their release.

They’d retain more of them, except many of them must return to their home county as terms of parole or probation, she says.

Both employers also note the difficulty of finding suitable housing and landlords willing to rent to felons.

On top of wages and benefits, re-entry center employees are also eligible for the company’s referral program; many have referred other re-entry residents to the company and earned as much as $250 bonuses.

“The quality of their work is good,” Droptiny says. “I don’t want to underestimate how great these guys are.”

The full article is available on The South Bend Tribune’s website.