A second chance at life
See how one individual’s story is a testament to the profound impact of the work done by UnidosUS Affiliate One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico.
Jose wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. to get to work by 7 a.m. His work day is hard—harvesting, packing, and transporting eggplant, but it is all worth it to him. Succeeding in this job is getting him one step closer to his goal of becoming an entrepreneur.
However, not long ago, Jose’s outlook on life was not so bright. On probation, unemployed, and hopeless, Jose didn’t have the resources to rebuild his life.
THE REENTRY SYSTEM
Every year, nearly 650,000 people are released from prison, a disproportionate number of whom are Black and Latino. Additionally, 4.5 million adults are on probation or parole as of 2016. Like in Jose’s case, many of them find themselves without the support they need to rebuild their lives.
Since the justice system by and large doesn’t provide people convicted of a crime with the support they need to get on the right path, many find themselves again in trouble with the law. The problem is so bad that the national rate of recidivism—the rate that a person returns to prison after release—is reported as high as 83% by some studies.
UNIDOS US YOUTH ADULT REENTRY INITIATIVE
In 2017, UnidosUS launched the Young Adult Reentry Initiative to tackle part of this issue by reducing recidivism for young Latinos (18–24 years old). Through this initiative, we are supporting organizations that help Latino youth reintegrate into society and become gainfully employed upon release.
Participants receive case management, legal services, family reintegration services, education, and job placement support. If needed, mental and physical health supports are also available. In just 18 months, 350 people have been enrolled in the program with a recidivism rate of less than 7%.
BUILDING A BETTER LIFE
Jose, who participated in the program through OneStop Career Center of Puerto Rico (OSCC), is a testament to the initiative’s impact.
When he learned about the program, Jose was unemployed and didn’t have clear goals. The only thing he knew was that he needed to change because he had promised his family that he was going to leave his past behind and build a new life. But he didn’t know where to begin. He was on probation and didn’t have a high school diploma, any formal skills, or even a driver’s license to look for work.
However, Jose’s commitment to change was evident to the case managers as he worked with them to get on the right track. “Jose was very committed from the start” says Jackeline D. Rodriguez, OSCC Case Manager, who has helped him make the most of the program and move forward with his life. Jose has since worked with OSCC staff to get job readiness training, earn a credential, acquire his driver’s license, enroll in a GED class, and start a stable job—all steps toward fulfilling his promise and reaching his dreams.
OSCC is so proud of Jose’s commitment to building a better life for himself that they highlighted his successes with a Spanish-language video.
THE NEW JOSE
Jose uses the income from his new job to support his family and sustain himself while pursuing his next goal: owning a landscaping business.
“He’s very excited. This does not stop here for Jose. He wants to start his own business [and is] working on making that happen,” says Cristi Dedós Quiñones, Employment Specialist at OSCC.
Jose and his family are proud of the new Jose. He has not only left his past behind, but he has taken big strides to completely change his lifestyle for the better in a very short period of time.
“My mind is focused on moving forward,” Jose shares, and he is thankful to OSCC staff for helping him get to where he is: “[They] have been awesome people with me. I recommend them because the program has helped me move on with my life.”
By Hiram Cortez, Workforce Development Program Coordinator