Success Stories

Goodwill NNE partners with local prison to offer paid work experience

For the last four months Amanda Merrifield has worked at a Goodwill warehouse – while in prison. She was incarcerated for nearly four years, and recently finished her sentence. Amanda is one of many women who got a second chance through the Women’s Reentry Program, and successfully transitioned out of prison into a career at Goodwill NNE.

Amanda works full-time sorting donations, using heavy machinery and helping coworkers at the nearby Goodwill Buy The Pound outlet store. She earned enough money in her four months at Goodwill to put a down payment on a new car – an important step toward success and recovery that she’s proud of.

The Women’s Reentry Program at Goodwill

In 2022, Goodwill partnered with the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center to give incarcerated women the opportunity to work during their prison sentence. The program helps women earn a paycheck and crucial work experience before their release date. When someone is released from prison, they often start fresh with no job, transportation, money, or housing. Goodwill’s program combats the barriers that often come with a criminal record, by setting participants up for a successful transition back into the workforce and their lives.

Once hired, the women are regular employees, so nobody outside the program knows they are in prison. Goodwill drives the women to work up to six days a week. They earn a paycheck and are offered an Employee Life Navigator, just like any other employee. Employee Life Navigators are there to help Goodwill employees overcome barriers. For an incarcerated woman, this may look like finding housing in a new town to avoid previous ties to crime, learning how to save up for a car, or earning a college degree.

“The Women’s Reentry Program has helped so many women in its first year and is a perfect fit with Goodwill’s mission. Everyone deserves personal stability and a fresh start, and that’s exactly what we are helping these women achieve here,” said Goodwill Talent Acquisition Coordinator, Chris Lazaros. “The women are really hard workers and are willing to take the steps to successfully reenter their lives after their sentence.”

The program’s success

The program piloted with four women, who immediately showed they were willing to work hard and do what it takes to get a fresh start. After the pilot group, applicant numbers skyrocketed, and the program has helped 18 women gain employment at Goodwill. They still work there to this day. It’s also helped the Gorham, Maine warehouse find and retain staff after months of a shortage.

After their prison release, some women stay at the warehouse, but a few women move to retail stores near their home. This seamless transition saves the women from having to go through the hiring process and stress that a background check can bring for someone with a criminal record.

Amanda takes a lot of pride in starting over and working her hardest. She earned her GED while in prison and keeps the success going while sorting a record number of donations in the Goodwill warehouse each day. Her next goal is to save up, and secure housing for her family. 

“It feels good to show them and prove to myself that I’m more than that,” she said. “The program is there to help you when you need it – you just have to take the steps.”

To get help finding a great job, or overcoming a barrier to employment visit 

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