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Hickman Farms expanding inmate reentry program to include temporary housing

Posted at 7:00 PM, Sep 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-18 10:08:59-04

Hickman's Family Farms have been a part of the Valley for more than 70 years. It's the largest egg company in the Southwest.

For a few decades now, the company has given inmates a second chance by giving them a job. The company says: It's an untapped market with a good workforce. This summer, the company is expanding its reentry program to include temporary housing.

On a large gravel lot in the far West Valley, there's a cluster of apartments where 40 units are lined up. There's no elaborate landscaping or fancy swimming pools - but that's alright. This is still a stark contrast to where these residents used to be.

Amanda Smith lives in one of the units. This has been home since getting out of prison a few months ago. "I was sober for ten years, and then I fell off the wagon and went back to prison," Smith said.

Amanda has spent the last four years serving time but she also used that time to rebuild her life through Hickman's reentry and transition program. It provides non-violent offenders with a good job while they're incarcerated. And now this summer, the company is offering housing for those employed inmates leaving jail, or any other employee transitioning. 

"It's something that had to be done in order to knock down those barriers," said Aaron Cheatham who heads up the program.

Cheatham used to be a parole officer, so he knows housing and employment go hand in hand.

"The group that got out of prison and they were homeless, and they didn't have the potential for employment, you know, they failed," said Cheatham. 

The transition apartments come fully furnished with everything from a bed, sheets, dishes, towels, even a 42-inch TV. They're also walking distance to work.

"You have a place to go and a job. It's huge," said Smith. "It's a huge relief."

Right now, 23 of the 40 apartments are occupied. The tenants give 20-percent of their pay to housing, but when they transition out, they get up to half of that money back.

For Smith, this job changed how she feels about life.

"It was either do something different or lose everybody in my life," said Smith. "So, I chose to live."