Salisbury, N.C. — Tracey Everhardt is a lab technician at plastics additive maker Carolina Color Corp. in Salisbury.
He's also a felon — he joined the company after serving 14 years in North Carolina prisons.
But he's not alone in having that unusual detail on his resume. He's one of 21 former or current inmates on the job at Carolina Color.
The way Everhardt and his co-workers see it, their workplace should be celebrated for what it does to help felons leave prison and rejoin society.
“Society doesn't see the success stories,” Everhardt said. “They get the negative or the unsuccessful. Automatically you do something wrong, you are going to be on the news.”
The plastic colorant maker works closely with the work-release program at the minimum-security unit of nearby Piedmont Correctional Institution.
Employees see it as a pipeline back to a normal life.
Kerry Briggs has operated an extrusion line at Carolina Color for 13 years. For the last two years of his seven-year prison term for selling drugs, he left the penitentiary five days a week to work in the factory.
It eased the transition. He was mentored by other parolees at the company on both emotional challenges and practical steps, like how to build a credit line.
“It was so helpful to me to come out into society with a job and an opportunity,” he said. “Most guys who don't have that opportunity to join some type of outside organization, they're coming home with basically nothing, no support and it can get tough.”
Briggs said working at the company while in prison gave him the credit history to buy a home within a year of getting released.
He said his motivation was his son.
“I thought about him every day [in prison],” Briggs said. “I worried about his welfare and his well-being. And the mistakes that I had made.”
Briggs regained custody of the teenager within a year of getting out of prison. Now 22, his son is about to graduate from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte with a degree in nursing: “I'm super happy about that,” he said.
Briggs sees Carolina Color as an example of what work-release can do.
“I just wish we could have a discussion as a nation, you know, and focus on guys coming home from prison,” he said. “I feel like I was one of the lucky ones. I don't think we as a society, we're not doing enough.”