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Carlsbad nonprofit helps with the hard road back from incarceration

Nick Saldaña
Tania Thorne
Nick Saldaña getting his wetsuit ready for a surfing session, Sept. 20, 2021. He credits Reintegration for helping him land a job and a career after a stint in prison.

Although his time in jail isn’t a good memory, Nick Saldaña said it was what made him change.

Before jail, Saldaña got wrapped up with drugs and crime.

“Couch surfing ... doing anything I got to do to get money, no matter what it was," he said. "Stealing stuff from stores to eat, to going to different friends' houses to see if they had food or whatever it was. Couch-surf life basically."


A final robbery and a tarnished record with previous offenses got Saldaña a nine-year prison sentence.

While serving time, he said he saw a revolving door of people returning to jail

“I would see people coming back in two, three times before I’d even get out," he said. "I’d be in there for a year and three years later they'd come back and they're like, ‘You're still here?’ and I'm like, ‘Yeah, you're back?'”

Saldaña completed his sentence by staying busy with fire camps, where inmates train to fight wildfires, working out, and looking ahead to leaving his past behind.

When Saldaña was released, he got a job at a grocery store.


“I would wake up at 4 (or) 5 (a.m.), go skate to work," he said. "If it was raining, skating to the bus in the rain, showing up soaking wet, having to work in a dairy cooler and they didn't care.”

Although working at the grocery store wasn’t fun, Saldaña said the job did help him pay his rent and save money for a car.

Undated photo of Tim Lambesis (left), and Nick Saldana (right). Lambesis is the founder of the organization Reintegration. Saldana was the first client to go through the Reintegration program.
Tim Lambesis/Reintegration
Undated photo of Tim Lambesis (left), and Nick Saldana (right). Lambesis is the founder of the organization Reintegration. Saldana was the first client to go through the Reintegration program.

But he wanted more. That’s when he got connected with Tim Lambesis, the founder of a nonprofit called Reintegration.

The organization aims to “help people coming out of incarceration or addiction to find meaningful employment and build skills they’ll be able to use for the rest of their life.”

Reintegration offers support so people in this transitional phase don’t feel alone.

“They have a way to feel like they’re an asset to society rather than the burden they've been taught to feel for the past however many months or years,” Lambesis said.

Lambesis helped Saldaña get a stage crew job for TV shows and events in Los Angeles and San Diego.

It’s a job that Saldaña enjoys, could turn into a career, and gives him enough time to surf.

“You just have to go and look for a job, reach out to a bunch of different people every single day, apply everywhere, and sooner or later it's gonna come," Saldaña said. "Just depends how fast and how motivated the person is.”

Lambesis is the lead singer of the heavy metal group As I Lay Dying.

Undated photo of the musical group, 'As I Lay Dying" in concert.
Tim Lambesis
Undated photo of the musical group, 'As I Lay Dying" in concert.

Like the people he aims to help, Lambesis has done time in prison. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to attempting to hire someone to murder his wife at the time.

“It's not something I can defend or explain in a way that somebody’s going to be like, ‘Oh I get it,'" Lambesis said. "Because it doesn't make sense to me, it's not like a logical place in my life. It's just a dark spot in my life."

He was sentenced to six years in prison and was released on parole toward the end of 2016. He said he lives with regret every day.

“It's something I wish I could take back every day but there's nothing I can really do to take it back," he said. "I can just show that it was a very isolated moment in my life. And the only way to prove that is by the way I live my life moving forward.”

While he was in prison, Lambesis got multiple degrees.

“I was really sick of sitting in my cell reading and journaling," he said. "So I decided to go back to school to take as many classes per semester as I was legally allowed to."

One of his degrees is in addiction counseling.

“A lot of the guys that I was incarcerated with, they didn't have the family support, the friends were not positive influences and they might not come out of prison with a particular job skill,” Lambesis said. “So I really wanted to help guys have all three of those resources.”

Reintegration works with different companies looking to hire and willing to give people a chance.

Reintegration: An Organization Helping People Coming Out Of Incarceration Or Addiction, Find Work

The organization offers résumé support and mock interviews to help their clients secure the job.

“A lot of these guys are more than capable on their own of getting a job and they have skills, they just need that support system,” said Lambesis. “Other guys need to actually develop the skills, so they may need to come into a lower-level job temporarily and work their way up so they can have that something that starts out on the minimum wage level, but eventually can become a career.”

This is Reintegration’s first year of operation, and the organization's helped 13 people so far. Its office in Carlsbad opens later this month. Lambesis said everyone is facing different things and the organization has to take every case by case.

“These are people that have been through things, a lot of times very heartbreaking things," Lambesis said. "As we give some of these guys, and hopefully some girls as well, a chance to tell their stories, that not only validates what they’ve been through but helps employers see these are great people that have done a bad thing, not bad people."