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Future Stitch production manager Tasha Almanza demonstrates a step in the process of the knitwear company's sock production. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Future Stitch production manager Tasha Almanza demonstrates a step in the process of the knitwear company's sock production. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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FutureStitch brings opportunity to once-incarcerated women

OCEANSIDE — A global sock producer is working with local agencies to recruit and employ formerly incarcerated women for its new manufacturing facility on Airport Road in Oceanside.

Headquartered in nearby San Clemente, FutureStitch is an innovative knitwear producer has partnered with well-known brands Stance, Toms, Crocs and Everlane to create unique, durable socks.

FutureStitch founder Taylor Shupe is also a co-founder of Stance, a sock, underwear and t-shirt brand. Shupe left Stance, moved into the manufacturing side of the business, and now produces Stance socks through his company.

When it comes to business, Shupe likes to challenge old ways of thinking – turning a throwaway fashion item like a sock into a commodity, or changing how society treats people impacted by the justice system.

Future Stitch worked with local agencies to recruit formerly incarcerated women for its new sock manufacturing facility in Oceanside. The company also hires individuals previously not incarcerated. Photo by Samantha Nelson
FutureStitch worked with local agencies to recruit formerly incarcerated women for its new sock manufacturing facility in Oceanside. The company also hires individuals previously not incarcerated. Photo by Samantha Nelson

The United States has the world’s highest overall incarceration rate and the highest female incarceration rate.

In 2020, California had the country’s second highest prison population, with 97,328 prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction. It was outpaced by Texas, which had a whopping 135,906 prisoners.

Returning to regular life after prison is challenging for many formerly incarcerated individuals. According to a report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly a third of formerly incarcerated people could not find jobs for years after release.

“They have to check a box when they apply to a big corporation, and once they do, they’re likely not going to get that job,” Shupe said.

Shupe noted that formerly incarcerated – or justice-impacted – individuals also have to deal with other hurdles, including mandatory drug tests, parole visitation and court dates that can often interfere with a work schedule.

“The whole system is unfair and inequitable,” Shupe said.

But with his new Oceanside facility and future manufacturing locations, Shupe hopes to demonstrate to other companies that hiring formerly incarcerated employees is more profitable to everyone involved. Since the facility opened, FutureStitch has worked with San Diego Workforce Partners and North County Lifeline to recruit formerly incarcerated women as employees.

Shupe also takes it a step further by providing various classes like yoga, meditation and affirmations that aim to improve his employees’ mental and emotional health while at work. He plans to hire therapists and other specialists for the team in the future as well.

The facility also has an Airstream trailer for nursing mothers and is working on completing a recreational space for employee events.

“If coming to work allows them to accept themselves and find hope in life, then maybe we can prove that the incarceration system isn’t worth the taxpayer dollars and additional crime and perpetuation of it to the next generation,” Shupe said. “Because now they’re here, so if they’re producing GDP and happy, and their families are intact, then why not hire them?”

In just a short period of time, Miremah Brown has grown to love her new job at Future Stitch’s new manufacturing facility in Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson
In just a short period of time, Miremah Brown has grown to love her new job at FutureStitch’s new manufacturing facility in Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson

Sarah Porter, who heads Human Resources, leads the yoga and meditation classes and has closely bonded with the people who work there.

“I’m so sad our society doesn’t see there is value in our mistakes,” Porter said. “Instead of shutting people down as soon as they check that box, let’s help and serve each other.”

FutureStitch’s Oceanside facility has been operating for only two months, but several employees have learned to love their job.

“I look forward to coming to work every day,” said Miremah Brown. “It’s the energy here, the motivation – we’re helping each other out, working together as a team – it just makes you want to come to work.”

While Brown was not incarcerated, she had fallen on hard times, which forced her to move into a shelter for some time. Things began turning around for her earlier this year when she got a new apartment with her kids.

A few months later, she found FutureStitch while looking for a job that better suited her children’s school hours. Now, she’s only looking forward.

“I’m not where I’ve been, I’m where I’m going,” Brown said.

Future Stitch's manufacturing facility in Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson
FutureStitch’s manufacturing facility in Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson

Like Brown, Ana Alvizo is not focusing on her past, but she feels more comfortable talking about it since joining FutureStitch. Before, it was standard for her to keep the fact that she was formerly incarcerated to herself to avoid judgment – and when she had to reveal her past for job interviews, she could feel a shift in how they treated her.

“You could tell by how their faces would change a little bit, and they’d tell you they would call you, but they don’t,” Alvizo said.

In the years after her release, Alvizo had a baby and returned to school at MiraCosta College, where she joined Transitions, a group that helps support justice-impacted people. Before Future Stitch, she worked at McDonald’s for several years, gaining leadership skills that she still carries with her today.

Production manager Tasha Almanza said she “lost everything” before FutureStitch. Now, she sees the company as her foundation.

Almanza, like the others, feels appreciated and accepted by Shupe and Porter, who know and care about the people who work there.

“They’re giving us women another chance,” Almanza said.

All three women are excited about their futures in the company.

“There’s so much room for growth,” Alvizo said.

Shupe plans to open other FutureStitch factories throughout the country, with the next slated for Dallas, Texas. The company is on track to reach revenues of over $50 million in 2022 and plans to use these funds in its expansion.

Before opening its first American manufacturing facility, the company’s manufacturing work mainly occurred at its LEED Platinum-certified eco-facility near Shanghai, China.