Adult re-entry program helps put recently released inmates to work

Program to help inmates get back on their feet

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - At the Higher Ground Community Center, off of 44th Street, William Williams found his new path.

But to know how he got here, you have to go back. Back to 1988 to be exact.

“Basically my whole life has been a drug dealer,” explained Williams. "It went bad, I went to prison at the age of 22 years old.”

For the next few decades, Williams served his time in the Maricopa County Jail. Then on December 18, 2018, he stepped outside the barbed wire for the first time.

Ready to make a change.

“I've been given this second life and to use this second life for the better.”

Williams went to Goodwill's Adult Re-Entry program for help. A program that focuses on getting recently released inmates into the workforce.

Program Manager, Lisa Larivee said Williams expressed interest in connecting to others who had just got out of jail, and becoming a mentor.

So he began splitting his time with the Goodwill Metro Program, a homeless drop-in center for youth and Good Futures Program that works with kids coming out of foster care.

“For some reason William just had this knack with connecting with some of the kids there, when other staff did not,” said Larivee.

Williams also signed up with Pima Community College to pursue Social Work. Then, through Metro he spoke at different events for them and even spoke to a class at the University of Arizona.

While at Metro he networked with AmeriCorps staff, which led him to Higher Ground, where he now works as a Child Family Advocate.

Larivee has worked with Williams and others like him for years now. Opening doors for recently released inmates and showing them what they can offer.

"The first thing they say is ‘I don’t have any work experience’ and that’s not true. They have a history of work experience and they have a work history that’s in their file.”

Finding jobs can be a matter of survival. And finding the right one helps them stay on track.

“Getting to work is extremely important but I think finding the right work or some kind of career or matching of skills is really the key,” said Larivee.

Williams is now taking his second chance by storm, working at a place that puts his past aside.

CEO and Co-Founder of Higher Ground Jansen Azarias said they have several people on their staff who have recently been released from jail. Their mission is to empower one life at a time through love and building character. It's why they look past people's past, and help them look to the future.

“It would be hypocritical of us to say that of the kids we see here but than treat the adults any differently. We love being part of William’s story and other people’s stories when it comes to a second chance,” said Azarias.

Williams is only looking forward.

"This is my future, this is what I’m doing and I’m very happy with what I’m doing.”

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