Company hires inmates hoping to reclaim life

Alison Morrow reports.

For more than 50 years, a Seattle company has hired inmates who are looking for a better future.

Forever a Husky, Toalei Mulitauaopele wore his purple and gold to work on Bowl Game weekend. Once a defensive lineman for the Dawgs, he lost the chance to play professional football.

His self-esteem sacked, he quit school and almost quit life.

"Just, man, whatever it took to get high and stay high. I didn't want to feel bad no more. I didn't want to feel like a loser no more. I took whatever I needed to take," he said.

Drugs, robberies, and eventually assault on police landed "T" in prison for years. Eventually, he sobered up and decided to grow up but no matter how many jobs he applied for, no one wanted to hire him.

"It's not impossible but it's tough. Once you're labeled as a felon, a lot of people shut their door on you," Mulitauaopele said.

It's a story shared by many in Pioneer Human Services manufacturing plant in Seattle. The company gives former inmates a chance to create something more.

More than half of the employees have criminal histories, and many have struggled with substance abuse. Two Seattle plants produce more than 1.4 million airplane parts every year.

"Companies like this probably benefit more than other companies, because we're willing to work that much harder to get our lives back," said employee Lynette Malo.

Eight years later, Mulitauaopele has moved up from quality control to supervising half the plant. Every once in a while, he sees someone he knew on the streets.

"So, it's kind of inspiring when they see me. Damn T, you did it. Yes. It's possible. It's doable. You got to work it," he said.

Work it like he did, returning to college and earning his degree, reuniting with his daughter, and returning to football to coach.

"Without places like Pioneer, there's no help. If there's no help, there's no hope," Mulitauaopele said. "I want to be part of the solution now, instead of part of the problem."

Copyright 2016 KING


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