James' Success Story: Reentering Society

Updated: Apr 22

The process of returning to society after incarceration is known as reentry. Across the United States, reentry can be challenging, from the mental hurdle of reintegration to the constant rejection during job interviews.

North Carolina is no exception, with a recidivism rates - or returning to prison - around 40 percent. Against these immeasurable odds, James Twine has made an amazing life for himself and continues to succeed.

When James was released from prison, he faced numerous obstacles. One of his biggest hurdles was understanding and accepting that turning his life around would be difficult. James says, “It's tough understanding that it took me years to hit rock bottom, so it could possibly take me years to come back.”

More than 900 state and federal laws deny North Carolinians a wide range of privileges and rights based on a criminal record. Last summer, N.C. Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 158 to implement fair chance policies at state agencies to increase employment opportunities for people with criminal records.

Still, employers don’t exactly jump at the opportunity to hire those with criminal backgrounds, even when the individual shows promise. James faced the same job hunting barriers as all returning citizens: few or no responses from applications or interviews that never had a call back. Despite the frustration of continuing rejection, James remained determined. One day, he waited in line for seven hours in the dead of winter just to fill out an application for an apprentice program. Five months later, he got a call and an offer at that local apprentice program.

He did not leave his momentum at the door once he obtained the apprenticeship. “All the energy I used to put into negativity went to my job, tenfold.” said James. His hard work and ‘can-do’ spirit have paid off. James was selected to participate in the four-year remodeling project on New York’s famed Madison Square Garden. His work ethic and infectious positive demeanor has left a lasting impression on all of his colleagues, resulting in regular promotions and his ultimate advancement to construction foreman with his own crew of laborers.

We asked him why he thinks so many people struggle to return to society successfully, he responded, “Fear, mostly. Fear of being rejected at job interviews. Fear of losing friends and being looked at differently. The fear of struggling for a better future.”

He advises others reentering society to be patient and remain consistent. “Be prepared to be let down, but do not allow those let-downs defi