Andre Marshall works for the Marriott Marquis Hotel. (Courtesy Photo)

One of the best employees of a luxurious District hotel recently finished serving over two decades in federal prison and is an example of rehabilitation and redemption. Andre Marshall is a banquet houseman at the upscale Marriott Marquis Hotel that is adjacent to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Marshall’s job is to make sure that the hotel’s guests and clients have the equipment they need for successful business or social affairs.

“I set up rooms for events,” Marshall said. “I set up and clear tables, chairs, stages, and risers for events. We fix the room the way the client wants it.”

Marshall works with a team of six other banquet housemen to organize spaces such as the huge ballrooms in the hotel’s lower floors that can accommodate hundreds of people for an event.

Marshall started at the Marriott Marquis in January 2014 and has received an unprecedented three Spirit of Service Awards and four Gold Coins, all citations of his outstanding service as judged by his supervisors and the hotel’s clients. “You only get those awards when guests write the corporate office about you,” Marshall said. “Those awards don’t happen every day and if you get even one, you’ve done well.”

Marshall is a success story. Statistics compiled by the District government report that 60,000 residents, or nearly 10 percent of the city’s population, consists of returning citizens. It is well documented by District agencies such as the Office of Returning Citizens and local think-tanks that those who have been previously incarcerated for crimes, particularly felonies, have difficulty finding stable employment.

This inability to find employment often leads some returning citizens back to a life of crime. A December 2011 Council of Court Excellence report found that the unemployment rate for returning citizens is a whopping 46 percent, compared with 7.5 percent of the city’s population that isn’t employed.

The report also says that 77 percent of the District’s returning citizens received no employment assistance while incarcerated and only 33 percent of those surveyed said that employment assistance was available to them post-release.

Marshall served 22 years for first-degree felony murder. He was first imprisoned in Lorton Reformatory in Virginia and when it was shuttered in 2001, served out his time in penal institutions in Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. However, Marshall didn’t use the time he was incarcerated idly. “I attended Anacostia High School before I was locked up,” he said,” but I worked and got my GED while incarcerated.”

When Marshall was released in 2010, he returned to the District and got a job in construction. He heard about the Marriott Marquis Job Training Program two years ago on the radio and decided to give the hospitality industry a try.

“Andre was engaged as a student and was a leader during the classroom portion of the training,” Thomas Penny, the general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center, said. “He and several of his peers would come downtown, when they were not in class, to tour hotels in preparation for their chance to work at the Marquis.”

“Andre is one of our best,” said Marshall’s supervisor, Senior Events Manager Ronald Quick. “He has a good work ethic and is reliable. He came here with a positive attitude and he is always professional with the guests.”

Marshall said he loves working for Marriott and has aspirations. “I hope to be promoted to manager for events services some day and then director of the hotel and then general manager,” he said. “I would really like to own a hotel and I’m working toward that, also. I am at the bottom in seniority right now, but I’m working hard to move up.”