On May 19, 2015, I had the honor to speak at the Live Free Public Forum which was put on by Sacramento ACT at the South Sacramento Christian Center. This community forum was created to get state and local officials to commit to helping our communities and to reduce mass incarceration and gang violence. The forum also touched on the importance of mental health access and resources. My intent was to increase the economic dignity of the people in our communities.
I touched on my challenges as a formerly incarcerated felon who was struggling to make a good life for myself. I explained to the audience and the community leaders there that I was the lucky one because other felons had it much harder than I did. I think gave suggestions on how to help the formerly incarcerated get on their feet and be productive members of society, which would create safer streets for your children and my future children. I truly believe I sparked a conversation about the difficulties and challenges of former inmates. I hope this leads to more solutions down the road.
Below is the full speech in its entirety.
My name is Pyerse Dandridge. I’m a Sacramento ACT leader and a Prince Hall Mason with the David D Mattock Lodge #87 here in Sacramento, CA. I was convicted of bank fraud and sentenced to 17 months at Federal Prison Camp, Herlong, near Reno, NV. There I witnessed poor job training, poor mental health help and poor transitional skills teaching.When I came home, I was forced to work low waged thankless jobs. Meanwhile, I would find myself rejected for jobs I was qualified for because of my background. I also had difficulty paying for a livelihood that was below my needs because of limited income and housing discrimination.
I would find that I was one of the luckier ones. I was single with no children. My fellow formerly incarcerated would have to worry about supporting their wives, husbands, and children. Other felons didn’t have the support of family that I had. They didn’t have ties to the community or knowledge of job resources or the educational background.
So I became a Sacramento ACT leader. My goal was to help those get a second chance at life, become more confident in themselves, and make our streets safer for your children and my future children.
And I believe the best way to do this is to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, for state and county to produce more programs like the Priority workers programs for the Kings new arena, and I would like to see ban the box extended to housing and all levels of employment.
These ideas will help to eliminate recidivism which will increase the number of productive citizens in Sacramento, and ultimately make it safer for all people in Sacramento and California.