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March 2, 2022

Windy Ortiz had been involved in the justice system and got connected to our Reentry Works program, Prison to Employment. Prison to Employment’s goal is to serve individuals impacted by the justice system by creating a systemic and ongoing partnership between rehabilitative programs and the state workforce system. We connected with Windy to hear about her personal experience and what advice she’d give to others who are interested in the program.

Windy Copy

Deona Dorsey, the career navigator for Prison to Employment, had previously talked to me about the Second Chance program, but at that time I wasn’t in a place where I was ready to change my life. Then I graduated from rehab and was like ok, what do I do from here? I was referred to Prison to Employment by McAlister Institute and I’m so glad they did. I was in a place where I was ready to make a change.  

Everything in the program was so amazing. When I went into the Prison to Employment program, I had no self-esteem and no confidence. I felt like my past was going to ruin my future; I was raised thinking that as a felon there’s no hope. Teachers and everyone in school gave that impression so I felt like once I was a felon, I would never get a job and I was limited with career options. With my record, or the title of a felon, I thought that was it. 

Prison to Employment didn’t just tell me that view was wrong, but they proved it to me. They proved that my past doesn’t define me and it doesn’t have to define what the future holds for me. When I was discouraged, they encouraged me to continue and that’s why I am where I am in my career. The program helped get me back into the field I wanted. I’m doing phlebotomy and COVID-19 testing and I’m a lead at my facility. I’m also in school and I want to be a registered nurse. 

Through Prison to Employment I also received help with school, like filling out a FASFA application and taught me how to use a computer and Zoom.

The program helped with finding and applying for jobs online and lI earned how to follow up with employers. They held mock interviews which helped me know how to answer hard questions that might come up so I felt really prepared for interviews. The program also helped me make a really nice resume. Once I was hired, a few people on my staff even asked about how I made the resume.


One time, our CEO went incognito as a patient to get her blood drawn and I got feedback that she was impressed by my customer service skills. I was offered a pay raise and the CEO has volunteered to write me a letter of recommendation. Fast forward two years and I have received a promotion and am getting paid more than I ever have before. I’m now in a position to influence hiring and have opened up opportunities for others who have similar backgrounds.  

I refer often to the program, friends, acquaintances and connections I’ve made. The program has a lot more to offer than they even tell you. They’re going to give you the tools, guidance and support you need to be successful. They’ll hold your hand until you can walk on your own. And it goes beyond just the program. I still get calls and the staff still check in with me.

Thank you to Diana, my counselor, and the whole team including Izzy and Jessica. Thank you to Scott who took time to meet with me over Zoom before the program to explain what they had to offer and for encouraging me. He answered all my questions and got rid of my doubts. 

Windy shared her experience at the 2022 Prison2Employment Summit. You can watch the video here.

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