Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 27, 2014

POVERTY IN NIAGARA: Local groups, businesses breaking down barrier for those with criminal records

Local groups breaking down barriers for those with criminal records

Niagara Gazette — Aisha Maye had been in and out of jail for nearly a decade before deciding that enough was enough.

Armed robbery, drug charges, criminal mischief. The list of arrests and convictions is long. Maye said she did shorter stints in county jail at least 12 times and served a 16-month term in state prison before being released in December of 2009.

But at 27 years old, Maye is ready to take her life in a new direction.

“I’m not an angel,” she said. “I mean I’m a good person, but I’m not an angel. In your younger years you do things that you’re not supposed to do.”

Maye, who said she was first arrested at the age of 16, is a life-long resident of the city’s downtown neighborhood. She said falling in with the wrong crowd is easy to do on her block.

“It’s just basically running with the wrong people,” Maye said. “Having a negative crowd around.”

Maye was ready for a change when she walked out the doors of Albion Correctional Facility more than four years ago, and true to that intention has stayed out of trouble.

“I’m trying to keep my head above water,” she said.

But it hasn’t been easy. She has tried to stay busy visiting with nieces and nephews and doing odd jobs around the house, sometimes working on houses owned by her uncle.

Despite putting out about four applications a week since being released from prison, Maye said she has been unable to land a job.

“I don’t just sit around,” she said. “It’s boring when you just sit around.”

There have been a few prospective opportunities, but they either fell through or other barriers — like a lack of reliable transportation to a job in Cheektowaga — have prevented her from finding work.

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