There was a moment in 2011 when Tony D’Aloia considered his freedom to be a curse. In prison, where he’d just spent the better part of a decade, he could survive a full year on the $100 his mom sent him twice a year, on his birthday and on Christmas. But now that he was outside and back home in Washington state, he needed money to survive—lots of it. He’d heard of job openings with warehouses and construction companies, but nobody seemed eager to bring on a convicted felon.
Then he finally found someone willing to interview him. A young Bellevue pizza joint called MOD was hiring a dishwasher. D’Aloia knew zilch about MOD and wasn’t excited about the work. But it came with benefits and a 401(k), which was nice, if unusual. So he went in for the interview.
And anyway, he wasn’t in a position to turn down work. By the time he was in his early 20s, D’Aloia had been arrested 38 times. Every time he was released, he’d go right back to jail. “I couldn’t last a week on the street,” he says. He’d get drunk and start a fight, or trespass after-hours in the park. But his big bust, the one that sent him away for more than five years, was on a conspiracy to distribute ecstasy. He needed two grand to pay off a DUI fine, so he agreed to drive 25,000 pills from the Canadian border down into Washington. The job was a sting, and D’Aloia landed in long-term