I was so moved by this email I received today from a ministee in Seattle that I asked his permission to republish it. It speaks of the difficulties he has faced since returning from prison in getting a job, providing for his family, and feeling like a whole person. Please read it yourself and feel free to let me know your thoughts? Wishing you a happy & healthy holiday season. Blessings, Jeff
Thank you so much for checking in on my family and me. I wish I could report things are even remotely better – and I guess from some perspectives they are.
I am working, albeit as a freelancer, for an advertising firm in Seattle . That is not as positive a development as it sounds. The firm is owned by a man who is literally on his last gasps in the business. He owes everyone in town, including several other freelancers who have come and gone. I am paid the lowest of anyone in his employ – even lower than an administrative assistant he hired (and fired after two weeks) a couple of months ago.
I literally am the only copywriter at the firm and have been for months. The firm consists of the owner, his bookkeeper, and me. Because I am “contract” rather than an employee, he pays me days after he pays the bookkeeper, his employee. The owner, of course, takes money out whenever and sometimes I have to hold my check until it becomes good. The owner is abusive and belittling.
One of his clients is a well-known company who, when they were very happy with my work, Googled me and discovered my past. Then I was no longer allowed to work on their projects because of my felony. But, you ask, how does this work if you are the only copywriter on staff? How does this work? Simple, I have to hide when I do the work, remove my name as the author of the work, and send it out under the owner’s email rather than mine because he has long since lost the ability to write coherently.
Because I am the only copywriter handling several accounts, I rarely get home in time to participate in the weekly white collar support meetings. My family’s finances continue to be in a shambles because of what happened and because my salary is barely enough to cover our fixed expenses. I also do small gigs, mostly college papers. That gives us a very small amount of disposable income, but more often than not, it goes to the barest of necessities.
I continue to apply for jobs – I am nearing 5,000 applications since we moved back to Seattle in 2012 – and have had only two interviews – this job and one other I did not get. Now, it’s either because I am a lousy copywriter (I’m no Jerry Della Famina, but I can string together a coherent sentence), or people do the eight keystrokes necessary to Google me and I don’t even get to the interview stage. When I do interview, I am up front about my situation, which I am sure sinks me at that point.
A former assistant to the man I am working for told me he hired me because he knew I had no other options and wouldn’t just go to lunch and then ghost the firm – like what has happened to most of his previous copywriters. He has gone through two others since I’ve been there (both being paid at a higher hourly rate than I am) who could not take working for him and just went to lunch and kept going, or just didn’t come in again.
But, my family is healthy; my son just turned 15. Even so, every day is a struggle. I struggle to pay what has to be paid and kick down the road that which can wait; I struggle to work in an abusive and demanding environment where my talents are not properly compensated but I have no other choice; and I wonder, every day, how much longer I can or have to live like this. Not that I would do anything stupid – I have already looked down that hole and backed away – but I just never imagined my life would be like this.
My birthday was a couple weeks ago – 57 – and one of my oldest and dearest friends called me. And, I just broke down crying at where I am in my life. Nothing has any meaning except my son – but I am not being a good father to him, and can barely provide for him. I am an utter and complete failure and it takes every ounce of energy I have to take that next breath.
Clearly, I won’t be writing for Hallmark anytime soon – not that they would hire me. I am in counseling with a counselor who taught the class my probation officer required, and he is helping. But I cannot change my reality, I cannot find a good job, and I cannot take care of my family like they deserve. I am a mess.
Wish I could report better news. I may call in to the support group tonight on my way home – if I get to leave in time to participate. If circumstances allow, I will do that.
Thanks again for checking in – wish I had better news to report and sorry to be a “Debbie Downer” first thing on a Monday when you reached out with compassion. Hope all is well in your world and you are ready for a great holiday season.
For information on Our Confidential Online White Collar/Nonviolent Support Group, click here.
Rev. Jeff Grant, J.D., M.Div.
Co-founder, Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc., Greenwich CT & Nationwide