Program hopes to get ex-prisoners back into workforce

A new pilot program hopes to put some people released from prison back to work.

Each year more than 70,000 people are released from Texas prisons, with about 15 percent returning to Dallas County. Many of those folks are having a tough time getting a job, due in part, to their criminal record.

Dwawn Brown, 56, finds herself in a challenging position. On paper, Brown's worked with the homeless. But she's also served time in jail for check fraud.

"I have my resume and I'm ready,” Brown said. “I got caught. I had to do 9 months for making that bad choice."

Brown says that bad choice has made it extremely difficult for her to get a decent job.

"When you have that ‘x’ on your back it follows you for the rest of your life,” Brown said.

City Wide Community Development Corporation and the Texas Offender Reentry initiative are using $1 million dollars, provided by the state legislature, to train non-violent, ex-offenders -- and help them get jobs.

"We have employers who call us. We try to cultivate those relationships with employers so that they know that these people have been trained, have been vetted, they're eager to work,” said City Wide Managing Director Charles Gulley.

Qualified applicants can earn a logistics certification to do warehouse work. Gulley says there are immediate openings at the inland port. There's also a construction track with several job opportunities working on the S.M. Wright freeway reconstruction project.

Rickey Ransom, a U.S. Marine veteran who was convicted of evading arrest, says he's ready to get back to work.

Ransom worked as a mail handler for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 30 years. An addiction to cocaine ruined that career. He says he's clean today and hopeful he'll make it into this pilot program -- once again becoming a productive member of society.

“You can push yourself to succeed. Whatever limitations you think you might have, keep going at it,” Ransom said.