“Everybody deserves a second chance. If I didn’t get one, then I’d be unemployed right now and on the street. I feel lucky I have an apartment; I have a job. JaniTech trusts me, they like me, and I’ve worked hard. It hasn’t been easy or problem-free, but nothing is.”
Ted Jones is someone who knows how hard it is to start over. In 2021, he came home to Vermont after more than a decade away. “I was very nervous. Housing and employment. Those were the two big things. I’m an older age, so I knew I needed to get a job and I wanted to work.”
A veteran of the Coast Guard, Ted turned to the VA for assistance finding a place to live. They secured him an apartment in Chittenden County. The foundation of Ted’s new life was being built.
He was less sure where to start with his job search. Online applications were a starting point, but he was worried about being judged for his background rather than his merit. “I wondered, ‘Should I tell the employer I’ve been in prison for 15 years? Or should I not mention it and steer clear of it?’ I was battling with myself because I wanted to be honest.”
So, when a family member referred him to Working Fields, Ted decided to open his interview by sharing that he was a convict. “It sucked. I didn’t want to say that, but it was the right start.”
What Ted remembers most about that first meeting is that he “automatically felt relaxed and not judged.” His disclosure didn’t send “shockwaves or red flags” around the Working Fields office.
“I figured the best thing I could do is just be honest about my past, where I came from, and what I’m trying to do… It was huge to be able to talk to somebody at Working Fields, have them treat me like a human being, and connect me with companies who were willing to give me a chance.”
Starting with Working Fields
Ted’s goal was to work part-time with an employer that appreciated him as himself. Working Fields placed him with a company called JaniTech, which provides janitorial services throughout the region.
Ted worked hard to earn trust at his new position. Stability felt new and unfamiliar. He began to ease into the community around him – and found that he was accepted.
“It was hard for me to trust people. I found out that there are good people that you can talk to… As time went on, I opened up. I’ve learned to trust everybody there.”
Working Fields also connected him with a peer coach, a resource for support outside of work. For Ted, that connection made a big difference.
“I am an alcoholic, so having a coach like Jason helped out quite a bit…To have somebody you can talk to on the side that’s not your employer, and you can get into things like, ‘Well I had a slip’ or ‘I’m not doing very well’ is important.”
“That was a big thing with me. I didn’t want to tell people. I thought I’d get persecuted for it. And I never felt persecuted by Working Fields. I had a feeling that if I told them, 'Listen, I’m on a bender and I can’t go to work’ or whatever it was – luckily that didn’t happen – that I would have a place to go and say, ‘This is what happened,’ instead of running away.”
Today and Looking to the Future
Now, Ted has signed on as a permanent JaniTech employee. Their HR leader Mandy Yates sings his praises: "Ted is a wonderful addition to the JaniTech team. His strong work ethic, attention to detail, and go get’em attitude is exactly what we look for in an employee."
He still works part-time with hours that work for him. He’s stable in his recovery and has the same apartment from the VA. He’s planning to work for a few more years to build his Social Security after years of incarceration, but is taking things one step at a time.
Looking back, Ted feels sure that honesty led him to where he needed to be. “I was open right from the get-go, and it didn’t seem to affect anything. I was nervous about being judged, and I wasn’t… I’m lucky with JaniTech and I like what I’m doing.”
“For now, I’m happy, and I haven’t been happy in a long time. It’s a good thing.”