November 12, 2022
The Berkshire Eagle
One attendee said his time at the Berkshire House of Correction was transformative
PITTSFIELD — Nathan Demo counts his time at Berkshire House of Correction as transformative.
Demo, 37, got out of jail Aug. 8 and has since managed to land on his feet, with a roof overhead and a job as a cook at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield with better benefits than he had in a previous job.
On Wednesday, Demo attended Berkshire County’s first Second Chances Job and Resources Fair at Berkshire Community College. It aimed to help people like Demo, but perhaps not as fortunate, who may have a criminal record and now need a job. The fair attracted employers from across Berkshire County and some service providers.
Lance King, owner of King & Sons Enterprises LLC, said he was ready to hire two to four entry-level employees to help expand his landscaping and plowing business. He put out a stack of applications at the beginning of the event.
“I have 13 good guys,” King said. “But how many guys did I go through to find those 13 good guys, you know?”
King said he believes in offering people with records jobs and has already done so, although this is the first job fair he has attended in order to recruit.
“I believe in second chances,” King said. “They’re already down bad in a sense because they already wrote that story in that aspect. … Somebody like me, they can write a new story. I’m just all about opportunity. Not everyone’s equal. But you do deserve an equal opportunity.”
About an hour into the event, his application stack was cleaned out.
Two people from Onyx Specialty Papers Inc. of Lee were looking for two to four people interested in entry-level manufacturing jobs paying $22 an hour and up.
Rae Noyes, human resources manager at Onyx, explained that the company subscribes to a certain philosophy: “We should be understanding that everybody has a past, everybody makes mistakes and that there is nothing in that that necessarily would debar someone from being a good employee and a contributor to their society.”
About halfway through the three-hour event, nine people had stopped by their table and three had filled out and returned applications. A few others said they would stop by the company.
Ronald Redmond, 37, has been sober for 10 years and out of jail for nearly six. He took part in a second chance program inside a Connecticut prison. Immediately after getting out, he started selling firewood.
“I drove to my grandfather’s house and firewood was the first thing I knew I could do without a background check,” he said. “And then the winter came around, and I started to get carpal tunnel pretty bad.”
That winter, he began studying and doing carpentry. After moving to Pittsfield, he saw a job posting on Indeed.com for carpenters at Berkshire Elegance. The ad had a note encouraged people with records to apply.
“That made a big difference for me,” Redmond said. “It really stuck out like, alright, this might guy might give me a chance.”
On Wednesday, Redmond was at the job fair representing Berkshire Elegance looking to hire two to four skilled carpenters.
Since leaving jail, Demo has been living at Keenan House in Pittsfield, a place that is more structured than some other programs, “which is great because I’m a giant child and I need my hand held and I need supervision.”
He credits 2nd Street Second Chances for helping him in myriad ways, including job placement and transportation. 2nd Street Second Chances was also one of the key entities involved in putting on Wednesday’s job fair.
“I’ve been able to build a network out here in Pittsfield,” Demo said.
While Demo didn’t need a job on Wednesday, he attended the fair to offer support to his friends who did.
Born in North Adams, he went to the Pine Cobble School in Williamstown and graduated from Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown. He got his first job as a dishwasher at Mezze Bistro & Bar in Williamstown.
On a lacrosse scholarship, he attended Assumption University.
“I got caught smoking marijuana my senior year before it was decriminalized,” he said. “So I wound up getting a 50-day school day suspension my senior year, had all my captainships stripped from me. I had my scholarship taken from me.”
He continued working for restaurants and became an executive chef for a chain.
Along the way, he fathered two children.
“And me and the fiancee wound up splitting up,” Demo said. “So she took the kids and I took a pretty, pretty dark turn into abuse or substance abuse, which then led me to the house of correction.”
On Aug. 8, he was released after 60 days in jail.
Now 37, he did not want to return to Northern Berkshire County because he feared it might trigger old behavioral patterns.
“I talked to some people through some of the addiction treatment services,” Demo said. “And I told them like I don’t have anywhere to go. I really don’t want to go back to the lifestyle that I was going in. I can’t surrender another day of my life to this disease. I want better for me. I want better for my kids, for my family.”
His time in jail, he said, allowed him to get sober and to turn his life in a new direction, literally and figuratively.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that this saved my life,” he said. “The blessings keep on adding up and adding up and, I just, I couldn’t have done it without the jail, which is pretty crazy to say, but I’m just very, very grateful and happy these days.”