DALLAS -- There are more than 70,000 people released from Texas prisons each year. More than 10,000 of them return to Dallas County.
Now, a new program is working to give some ex-offenders a second chance.
The Re-Entry Services Program is bringing training and employment opportunities to individuals who are trying to re-acclimate to the Dallas community.
Workers with City Wide Community Development Corporation say most of the former inmates returning to North Texas are in ZIP code 75215, which includes part of Oak Cliff.
"I was incarcerated for four-and-a-half years," said Baren Ross, as he stood outside the City Wide office on Lancaster Road.
Ross admits he has had a tough life.
"I have an 'X' on my back,” Ross explained, “a felony charge."
He has been out of prison five months, and he is trying to turn things around. Ross says it has been tough.
"Being turned down for getting me a place to stay. Being on my own. Finding me a job where I can take care of my daughters and my grandbaby," he said. They're all challenges he says he's dealing with since being released from prison.
That reality is a common one among ex-offenders returning to the City of Dallas from prison.
Steven King says he knows the experiences well. He has been struggling to find work for three months.
"It's frustrating, being a man and not being able to provide for my family the way I need to," King said.
That struggle is why the City Wide Community Development Corporation is working to provide new resources and opportunities for the formerly-incarcerated.
"We immediately sit down and try to come up with a plan," said Charles Gulley, managing director of the Re-Entry Services Program.
The new pilot initiative is focused on pairing non-violent ex-offenders with jobs, education, and other skill-training services.
"We work with employers. We want to find jobs for these individuals," Gulley said. "We're delighted to have such a large response from employers in the North Texas area."
State Rep. Helen Giddings helped secure $1 million in funding for the program to be implemented at City Wide and the Texas Offender Reentry Initiative.
Ex-offenders say the job readiness training is helping clients who have felt the odds were against them rebuild confidence.
"I do feel that this program is a well-need[ed] program," King said.
Steven King hopes he will be able to return to the manufacturing field he loves.
Ross is looking forward to the program helping him get back to work on an assembly line.
"A lot of these guys never get a chance to do anything positive after the mistake that they've made," King said. "So, I think this program is going to help them out a lot."
Workers with City Wide say they continue looking for employers who are willing to partner with the program.
Ex-offenders who may be interested in the Re-entry Services Program are encouraged to contact City Wide at (214) 371-1930.
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