Ernie's Story

Ernie“I grew up in Southeast Los Angeles where three generations of my family lived and began using drugs and alcohol at age seven. My father was a heroin supplier to the East Los Angeles area, and was either in prison or just never home. My mom was a nurse, but eventually lost her job due to a heroin addiction. All of my family members were active in gang life. My first arrest was at age eight and I continued in a life of crime for many years after that, spending a total of seven years in prison. In 2008, I left prison for the last time, with a determination to put my life on the right track. Through a collaboration in which Friends Outside was a partner (the “Re-entry Employment Options Program for Parolees” or “REEOP”), I completed a behavioral modification program, took classes at a local trade college, and began to volunteer. The REEOP program helped me find housing and obtain employment. Once I completed these major accomplishments, I was ready to address my most important goal, which was to retain custody of my daughter, which I did in 2009. I am now one of Friends Outside’s Job Specialists, helping other “ex-offenders” find jobs. Me and my wife recently bought a home.” Editor’s Note: According to Westat, an international evaluation company which conducted the program evaluation, approximately 94% of participants in REEOP did not return to prison or jail within 18 months after completing the program. Friends Outside’s Job Readiness Workshops were cited by Westat as “one of the key components” in the program.