Secondhand Store Offers Second Chances
 

Alice Triplett walks the yard of Chino's California Institution for Women (CIW). She's serving a three-and-a-half month sentence. For the most part, prison doesn't bother her. She has been in and out since 1992. But this time, it's a little different. Fear creeps into her mind. This time she's serving her sentence alongside murderers.

When she was younger, Triplett was just like any other teenager. She had goals, ambitions, and dreams. But life wasn't peaches and cream. Her father was an alcoholic, and her dreams of becoming a model were shattered when she got pregnant at age sixteen. A year later, her addiction to crack cocaine effectively ruptured and consumed her life. She lost her daughter and her mother in the process. "I had been trying to get clean since back in 1999, but I wasn't ready to surrender," Triplett says. "I had been using drugs for twenty years. I started when I was sixteen; I wanted to fit in. That was what all the young people were doing during that time. I wanted to belong to somebody...something."

While at the CIW, a women's prison of 2,511 inmates, Triplett stayed to herself. "I didn't want to get caught up in the mix," she says. "I wasn't used to walking around with murderers. I was really scared. It was the roughest three-and-a-half months, and I have done longer stretches before."

Triplett decided she needed a plan. This was not how she wanted to live her life and she knew it was time for a change. "I had an exit plan," she says. "First I had to get out of prison, and then once I was out, get a job, find my own place, and get my GED."

The change that she was looking for led her to Goodwill--an organization with a history of hiring ex-felons. They give many people second chances without passing judgment, and they helped Triplett even before they gave her her first job. "I completed one of Goodwill's life skill programs back in prison. This program taught me how to fill out an application, resume, and what to say [in] an interview," Triplett says.

The Goodwill Industries of San Francisco provides training and development programs to ex-felons and to those who are welfare dependent. They offer various programs such as Work-Based Learning, Back on Track, Community Jobs, and Bayview Hope Transportation Academy, all aimed at helping those in need. Jason Smith, business relations specialist at Goodwill Industries says, "About four or five years ago, we [started to pay] more attention to the re-entry program. There is a lot of interest and programs for those who have no adult experience and need training."

Triplett was released from prison on October 18, 2007. Now thirty-eight, she has been working at Goodwill for eighteen months as a donations attendant, and her loyalty to the company is apparent. Life is looking good. She has accomplished all of the goals that she made while in prison and is currently working on earning her GED.

"It feels good being out. For the first time, I have [gone] through one challenging year without going back to prison. I have changed extremely. I have reunited with my mom. I lost my daughter but now she is back. We are real close now and she calls me every day," Triplett says.

Triplett's energy fills the air in the donation lot on Van Ness Avenue. Everyone around her can't help but smile as her high spirits put them in a good mood for the workday. She greets customers with a wide grin and assists them with their donations. She is a different person now. She is free of the addiction. Free of the past.

"I love working here and I hope [to] move up within the company," Triplett says.

"Goodwill looks for people like me. I was a hardcore dope fiend out there. I have come a long way."

contact: shanita@sfsu.edu | Shani Ealey can't wait to travel to Spain and learn the Spanish language. Viva la vida!

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PHOTO
Jayne Liu | staff photographer

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