News Article: The recession may make things worse for formerly incarcerated BIPOC

by Candice Byrd

Insight from Candice Byrd, Assistant Director of Labyrinth Made Goods, is being featured on the news site in an article highlighting the disproportionate effects the recession has on individuals who've experienced incarceration and the BIPOC community. 

You can read the full article on the Prism Reports website:

The recession may make things worse for formerly incarcerated BIPOC by Sakshi Udavant

Read below for additional insight and information that Candice shared.

1. Tell me a bit about how you help formerly incarcerated people of color.

Staff at Labyrinth Made Goods created a professional development program called Strive. This is the first step to assisting women who have experienced incarceration and the general public in finding and maintaining sustainable employment and income.
Once they have graduated from Strive, women participants who have experienced incarceration are eligible to apply for a  paid business administrative apprenticeship with Labyrinth Made Goods, our nonprofit social enterprise. By doing so they are able to put their interview, resume, communication, and critical thinking skills to the test.
Apprentices are part of the day to day processes of running Labyrinth Made Goods and helping us grow sales in our home fragrance products. We hold monthly coaching sessions to help them define and work toward their career goals and on skills they are most interested in improving. Through the 9-month apprentice experience, we support them to harness their dreams and skills toward future employment opportunities.
Our apprentices lead projects, run meetings, and participate in product development, including scent and packaging design, as well as sales  and marketing opportunities. These leadership opportunities reinforce the empowerment they found in themselves during Strive.
Once in the apprenticeship program, we give them a hands on opportunity to really prove they can achieve things they may have thought were impossible or things they thought they were not skilled enough to do in the past.
"So often as a Stive facilitator I have heard from participants 'I can’t do this!' or 'I have no clue what I am doing!' Well, being a part of Labyrinth Made Goods means you can do it, and we don’t expect you to know what you’re doing, we are here to teach, practice together, and learn from our mistakes." ~Candice Byrd

Too often life doesn’t give you the a chance to have those opportunities to fail, try again, and succeed! The women who have been in the program have definitely succeeded beyond measures. Some have gone on to accept permanent full time positions with Labyrinth Made Goods.

2. Why did you choose to work with formerly incarcerated people of color?

This is a group of folks who are marginalized, overlooked, and so often not given an opportunity to rebuild due to past mistakes. We as a society give the impression that incarceration is your only punishment for a crime but in reality you can pay for it decades after sentencing and imprisonment. This shows up in so many different ways; like being denied housing, not being accepted for employment, eviction if you are in housing, being fired if you are convicted during your employment, etc.… If you have any drug conviction you can forget about applying for housing or public assistance through the state as you are automatically ineligible.2

Labyrinth Made Goods was founded by YWCA McLean County and we're an outgrowth of the Labyrinth Outreach transitional housing and support program for women who have experienced incarceration and are rebuilding in our community. YWCA McLean County celebrates Second Chance month every April (and all year really). Part of the goal for Second Chance Month is changing the narrative and outcomes for people who have backgrounds by shifting individual and societal perceptions. It's going to take all of us to remove barriers for folks who've experienced incarceration, like eliminating housing and employment discrimination.

By amplifying the voices of participants and apprentices who have been part of Labyrinth Made Goods, we are able to spotlight the abilities and achievements of the women who come through the program and help change the public narrative that women with convictions are unemployable or unsuccessful. We can look past a piece of paper that labels you in a negative light (background checks) and look to the skills, abilities, and mindset of the individuals that they truly are.

3. Why do formerly incarcerated people of color find it difficult to find jobs and rebuild their lives?

The bottom line is people who've experienced incarceration struggle to rebuild because they are often denied access to livable wages and safe, affordable housing. Being a person of color on top of that provides a double stigma. You are subjected to racial discrimination as well as discrimination from your record. Most of the time access to employment comes from minimum wage, entry level, and/or temporary positions regardless of your education and experience. Many jobs that pay livable wages, have career opportunities, and room for advancement are doing extensive background searches as opposed to individual ability testing or inquiring. This leaves a low starting point for a person of color to rebuild from as it becomes a vicious cycle of living pay check to pay check and no room for savings increase.

4. How would the looming recession affect formerly incarcerated people of color?

Since these folks typically don't have access to gainful employment and often rely on minimum wage positions, they also have the fewest resources to start with and little ability to absorb the rising costs.1 Increased food cost, housing inflation, and gas prices rising all put a strain on people directly as well as organizations providing support to them.

5. Do you have any studies, statistics, research, etc. to share about how formerly incarcerated people of color struggle to stabilize their finances and how the recession would make it worse?


The overall employment rate from 2010-2014 hovered between 34.9% and 37.9% — in other words, about two-thirds of the population were jobless at any given time.
For those who did find employment after release, their earnings were lower than the general population. In the first few months, people who had been incarcerated were earning just 53% of the median US worker’s wage. And after four years of seeking and obtaining irregular employment, the study population was making less than 84 cents for every dollar of the US median wage.3