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Former Prisoners Turn Waste Into Beautiful Furniture, Re-Building Their Lives At the Same Time


Recycling talent and material, Formr makes quirky furniture pieces from garbage recovered from the construction site while utilizing the carpentry talents of previously incarcerated people.


Operational for only 9 months, Formr Nonetheless, he has hired six ex-inmates and designed 10 nifty home furnishings, including a coat rack, a laptop desk for the sofa, and tables with built-in tech features, all between $ 89 and $ 500.

Sasha Plotitsa is a California-based industrial designer who was hired to design a cannabis dispensary, one that would eventually be shut down under pressure from the federal government in 2009.

Sasha Plotitsa, Formr

It was through this process that he came to understand first-hand a very American problem: the percentage of non-violent drug offenders in the prison population.

“I saw for myself what the failed war on drugs was like,” Plotitsa told Elizabeth Segran of 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. “

Trying to address waste and recidivism rates, Plotitsa began calling contractors regularly and asking if she could stop by and look through her construction site trash. Old wood, plasterboard, rusty pipes, broken concrete; All this construction waste amounts to 500 million tons, as Formr estimates, and more than 100 tons are not recycled.

At the same time, he began employing former incarcerated people, particularly those in jails with carpentry shops, which in fact have many correctional facilities in California.


“It’s quite a process,” he details, outlining the furniture path through which he builds a relationship with a contractor, goes through his scraps, finds the best parts, disinfects them, and removes all the nails and screws before he can begin. making a piece.

CHECK OUT: They recycle electronics, and people’s lives, giving ex-criminals good jobs to imagine a better world

You often find that it can be difficult to keep your workers on staff, as life after prison can often be volatile and unstable. Still, there are some success stories.

RELATED: Global nonprofit organization training African prisoners to become lawyers featured in 60 Minutes

One of these staff members, Gary Harrell, spent 45 years in prison, but nonetheless loved working with Formr on creating furniture. He began making his own artistic pieces, which have since been collected by institutions and galleries such as the Smithsonian, MoMA PS1 in New York City and the Library of Congress.

As drug laws, particularly those pertaining to marijuana, are reversed across the country, there are millions of people who will have to check a box on a job application that says “I was convicted of a felony.”

PLUS: When a student couldn’t afford tuition, inmates rallied to raise $ 32k to help

It is the work of people like Sasha that will help ensure that these unjustly expelled people are welcomed back into society.

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