CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Between tears, Ricky Brown remembers the day he decided to give himself a chance. He was released from prison about three years ago after serving a 15-year sentence for a pair of shootings that were tied to an extortion charge.
"Especially that first year, it was like I was bouncing around. Like, literally from couch to couch," Brown said.
With the help of Erika's Closet, founded by Traletta Banks, Brown is turning his life around.
The Charlotte-based organization is dedicated to people who were just released from prison or who are facing barriers because of a past criminal record.
After he gave himself a chance, Banks, did the same.
Banks remembers the first time she met Brown. He had just been referred to her nonprofit Erika’s Closet to help Brown get a job.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 33% of people who were released from prison did not find a job within four years of their release.
"We have a workforce development program, a re-entry 101 in job coaching,
For Banks, while it’s rewarding to help others, this work is also very personal.
"They look at me and say, ‘there’s no way,'" she said. "Yes way, I have a criminal background so I’m able to share my experience."
With a smile and an embrace, Brown is back on his way, and as Banks walks back to her office, it’s only a matter of time until she steps into someone else’s life to help them turn it around.