RecycleForce and the Difficulties of Re-entry

Courtesy of: Modupe Labode

Written by - Nicholas K. Johnson

RecycleForce is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that recycles electronic devices and employs formerly incarcerated people. Although an employer like RecycleForce seems far removed from mental health issues at first glance, my site visit quickly changed my view. We explored the RecycleForce facility and observed the recycling process from start to finish. Workers disassemble electronic devices into their component parts. Each of these components is further disassembled in order to access precious metals such as copper or gold (found in circuit boards). One employee called this process “urban mining.”

Suicide, its prevention, and aftermath were also prominent discussion topics during our visit. Several employees referred to PTSD during re-entry. At the start of each work day, all employees meet for thirty minutes to discuss their personal lives or other issues, including mental health. One manager described work as a form of therapy for him after spending years of his life behind bars. During my visit, employees and administrators constantly described their personal experiences of trauma resulting from incarceration: trust issues, substance abuse, alienation, dehumanization, and personality disorders, and depression. Places like RecycleForce show that issues stemming from mental illness and incarceration do not stop at the end of a prison sentence.