Felons get shot at new life through jobs program

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) These felons have faced troubled pasts, but a Kern County program is pushing to give them a better plan for their future.

AB 109 is the new law that takes certain low-level crime offenders from the state prison system and places them in county jail systems.

The New Life Recovery and Training Center AB 109 Re-entry Program is putting on job fairs that mentor screened, sober and supervised felons.

"I know the feeling that they got when somebody turned them away due to their criminal history," said Pedro Gutierrez, who is an ex-felon and recovering addict.

Today, Gutierrez celebrates more than five years free of substance abuse and a stable job as an employment training specialist for the New Life Recovery and Training Center.

"It was due to a good support group unit in my life that I was able to move forward," said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez now helps put on job fairs for AB 109 offenders to get them past a life of crime and substance abuse, through jobs and mentorships.

Jason Phillips also works with individuals released through AB 109. He said that felon-friendly job fairs are not only good for the recovering criminal, but the community as a whole.

"Unless these people are able to get these resources and get this help, solve their financial issues, and help their family situations, then we aren't gonna reduce recidivism and crime is gonna continue," said Phillips.

Aaron Rodriguez is out on probation through AB 109 and attended the "Jobs 4 a Safer Community Expo" on Wednesday, put on by New Life Recovery and Training Center. He said the program has not only given him the confidence to apply for a job, but the chance to land one.

"You're initial approach is not just that negative look, you actually feel welcomed and they actually take the time to listen to you and what you got to say," Rodriguez said.

The opportunities don't stop with the potential employees, but continue on for the employers. The government offers tax credits and free bond certifications to businesses that hire former offenders.