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Non-Profit Prepares Parolees for Workforce

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California prisons house 40 percent of the nation's inmates, and they're bursting at the seams. Many of those serving time have been sent to jail repeatedly. Seventy percent of people jailed once re-offend and are sent back. San Diego has the fourth highest number of parolees of any city in the country with 11,000 inmates released here annually. Now, one organization is working to send parolees into the work force, instead of back to jail.

These Strive students are preparing for graduation. The class is sponsored by Second Chance, a San Diego non-profit that teaches job-readiness skills to the unemployed, including ex-inmates. Scott Silverman is the founder and executive director. He says what's unique about Second Chance is the commitment they make to students.

Scott Silverman: When you and I meet in the classroom and you graduate, I make a two-year commitment to you that we'll be available with our job developers, our case managers and our mental health support for the next 24 months. I mean, we have graduates that don't even have family members that will take their call. So the idea of having that kind of follow-up is really, really critical. 

In fact, seven out of ten parolees who graduate from the Strive class beat the odds and don't go back to jail. Strive students say their success is due to a combination of the skills they learn and the community they develop.

Rosie Fomie, Strive student: These guys teach you how to stay focused, look at them in their eyes. They have you dress for the three weeks you're here in proper, professional clothing. It's just everything that they teach, that's why I wanted to come back.  

Anna Nixon, Strive student: What I’ve learned is that people have fallen, but they can be lifted, you know. And with the encouragement of each other, you know, I guess I’ve adopted them as my brothers and sisters, you know.

With the encouragement of each other, even in the bad times, the fallen times, you can be lifted up with the determination and the strength of each other.  

Second Chance will celebrate the graduation of their 100th Srive class on Friday.

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