After spending 18 months in prison, Ere Maldonado has come a long way from selling drugs and stealing cars.
“Before I went to prison I was running around selling drugs, pimping, stealing cars, stealing drugs, you know everything that comes along with that,” Maldonado said.
Maldonado was originally sentenced to nine years in prison, but was able to strike a seven and a half-year deal. While the father of three– one daughter and two stepsons– was ready to start his life over, he had trouble finding a job supporting his family.
“No one wants to hire a tattooed up, convicted felon,” Maldonado said. “Especially someone with violent crime offenses.”
Maldonado turned to Fathers Building Futures (FBF), an organization aiming to help formerly incarcerated fathers get back on their feet. The organization works in tandem with PB&J Family Services, a non-profit organization specializing in helping New Mexican children and parents.
“I’ve turned my life around,” Maldonado said.”I’ve been working with FBF for eight months and now I’m full time.”
Maldonado is currently the mobile lead at FBF. He says FBF has a few contracts with the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and also with solid waste management. Maldonado says he runs the mobile crew.
In addition, Maldonado says he usually oversees two to three other people on the job.
While Maldonado says he is grateful for all FBF has given him, he is also concerned about the reentry process within the criminal justice system. (Across the country, some nine million inmates are released back into the community each year.)
“When I got out of prison I didn’t have a job so I was applying for jobs and you know, I was getting a lot of interviews,” Maldonado said.
However, the application process requires applicants to check the box if they had previously been charged with a felony.
“I would then talk to them a little bit about it and once it got right there they were like, ‘okay, well, thank you, we’ll give you a call,’” Maldonado said.
Maldonado said job searching becomes difficult when employers will not hire applicants with felony convictions, even when employers claim they do.
“They would just have a stack of papers and look in the checkbox to see if you’re a felon or not and then just put those ones aside,” Maldonado said. “If they see you’re a felon, they’re less likely to look at the rest of your paperwork.”
While Maldonado says he enjoys his job, he said he would not mind exploring other opportunities outside of FBF.
“This is the stepping stone to a better lifestyle,” Maldonado said. “I’m sure if something did come along [that’s] better, they wouldn’t have hard feelings towards me.”