Nearly $2 million combined between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is about to help LA-area ex-cons get jobs — but only if they seek out the help.
As part of National Re-entry Week, the DOJ announced the plan in 18 cities across the country. The celebration this week is dedicated to those who have paid their debt to society and opens the door for substantive opportunities beyond the prison gates.
"All of us make mistakes," says DOJ Director of Access to Justice Lisa Foster. "What we know about young people is that they make lots of mistakes."
The program will focus on ex-cons ages 25 and younger, help them find housing, apply for a driver's license, jobs and more.
Thousands stand to benefit from the program, but Foster says no one will be going after the ex-cons to get them to sign up — she says they have to take the initiative.
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Darrion Parker, 22, says he's ready to do just that.
Parker says he was convicted of grand theft when he was 18 years old, shortly after he graduated from high school. And since being set free, he says he's had a hard time getting a good job.
"A lot of times people turn a cold shoulder," he said, adding that he currently works in a warehouse, but has his heart set on something better.
"My heart is set on nursing," he says. "Helping people, that's where my mind is set up at, real success."
Parker says he's been trying to get his record expunged. He hopes this new program will be that first step toward what he sees as a successful future.
"In order to change the world, we gotta change ourselves. But how can we show we changed ourselves without opportunity?"