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California Employer Teaches Former Inmates the Craft of Furniture Making


Formr, a recycled furniture company in California, provides everyone with a fair employment opportunity, including ex inmates. Owner Sasha Plotista launched the business just nine months ago. Since then, he has hired six ex-cons and developed ten unconventional furniture made entirely from repurposed products. From the beginning, Plotista wanted to start a company that tackled two important issues: waste and the employment of ex-offenders.

His inspiration for creating the business came from many first-hand experiences throughout his career. Growing up, Plotist spent a lot of time with his father, who worked as a contractor. While in different workplaces, he noticed the shocking amount of waste produced. When he went to college, he decided to specialize in industrial design in the state of San José.

From there, he was hired to design the MediThrive cannabis dispensary in San Francisco. However, the federal government shut it down in 2009. While working with the cannabis industry, Plotista became aware of the huge number of people incarcerated for drug-related crimes. He also realized the difficulties faced by non-violent drug offenders. find employment after getting out of jail.

“I saw for myself what failed war on drugs it seemed, “he told Elizabeth Segran in Fast company. “When someone gets out of jail, they have to check the box on a job application that says they have a record. That makes it very difficult for them to get their life back on track. “

With the combined experience that Plotista gained in the recruiting and cannabis industries, he decided to create Formr. He had enjoyed a fruitful career as a commercial and industrial designer, but wanted to try something new. His passion for fighting waste and recidivism led him to create a socially responsible furniture company. However, he faced many challenges while trying to start his business.

CA employer hires former inmates and teaches them the trade of making furniture

Photo credit: Facebook

While collecting materials for his furniture, Plotista learned that construction sites produce a whopping 600 million tons of waste a year. This includes materials such as broken bricks, new concrete slabs, and rusted metal pipes. Around 75% of these materials are recycled; Unfortunately, around 145 million tons of material still end up in landfills. Plotist wanted to get hold of these materials, but this presented many obstacles.

For one thing, there is no set system to find out which contractors will allow access to their workplaces. Therefore, Plotista realized that she had to call the contractors individually to ask if she could examine the trash. Over the years, he has accumulated an extensive list of contacts for collecting recycled materials. However, many contractors are still not comfortable with outsiders visiting their workplaces due to liability.

He said Fast company:

“A lot of contractors go their own way and don’t want anyone messing with their system. They have never diverted or recycled materials before and see no reason to start doing it now. They call someone to take it away and they never have to think about it again. “

However, he has formed a relationship with several contractors who support his mission and give him access to his materials. As you search the sites, look for materials like blocks of wood. Back in his workshop, he has a metal detector to scan the materials he gathers for missing nails. Then clean and sanitize any recycled material for use in production.

Finding employees for your business also comes with many challenges. Plotista uses various organizations to help him connect with people recently released from prison. He focuses on carpentry prisons to find workers with experience in furniture making. So far, he has hired six previously incarcerated people, but Plotista says it is difficult to retain them.

Formr’s owner talks about his experiences hiring former inmates.

It can take people years to get used to life after jail. One of Plotista’s employees had to resign due to a health problem that was overlooked during his sentence. Others have faced challenges with housing or managing drug / alcohol addictions. Plotista says that communicating with them about how you can help makes a big difference.

Despite the hiring challenges, Plotista says there have been success stories. His fourth employee, Gary Harrell, spent 45 years of his life in jail. After being hired by Formr, he discovered his love for creating furniture. Then he started working on his own pieces and, within a few months, he found great success. Galleries such as the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and New York’s MoMA PS1 featured his art.

Formr creates one-of-a-kind pieces like tech-featured tables and laptop desks for your sofa. Using only recovered materials like plasterboard, rusty pipes, and old wood, the company turns trash into a masterpiece. Sasha says her customers don’t just want beautiful or functional products. Your primary audience of design enthusiasts wants pieces that add meaning and value to their homes.

“I think people are looking for meaning in their life,” he says. “This applies to both their furniture and their careers.”

The quirky furniture costs between $ 89 and $ 569; you can buy for yourself in the Formr website.

Final thoughts: ex-prisoners have a chance to rebuild their lives in Formr

Unfair drug laws send millions to prison every year; many do not have a violent history. However, these positions seriously inhibit your ability to obtain employment after re-entering society. A man decided to do something about the growing problem and hire ex-prisoners. While this poses many challenges, Plotista, the owner of Formr, believes that everyone deserves a fair chance.

People like him give those struggling to rebuild their lives a chance. Hopefully more employers will begin to soften background checks because job opportunities dramatically reduce recidivism. After living in prison, these people want stability and a regular job provides that. Former prisoners who work at Formr show that life can always improve with the support of others.


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