Finding a job after emerging from the criminal justice system can be an incredibly daunting task, especially in the pandemic economy.

Santa Monica based non-profit Chrysalis is on a mission to change that and thanks to funding from a new County program, will provide dedicated career mentoring to 250 justice involved adults this year.

Chrysalis is one of six community partners in the L.A. County Office of Diversion and Reentry’s Skills and Experience for the Careers of Tomorrow (SECTOR) program — a $4 million initiative to equip justice involved individuals with the training, knowledge, and support necessary to find well-paying jobs with opportunities for career advancement.

People who have been to jail or prison face many barriers to employment. They often lack job or education credentials and are unsure how to navigate application and interview procedures. Many struggle with mental health or substance abuse issues from both their experiences prior to incarceration and trauma living in the system.

Without stable employment these individuals are at a high risk of recidivism.

A study released by the L.A. County Chief Executive Office in October 2020 found that 41 percent of incarcerated individuals were reconvicted within three years of exiting the County justice system.

SECTOR is designed to be a holistic job support system and address the many challenges justice involved individuals face through therapy, substance abuse counseling, skills training, peer mentorship, and job placements.

Program partners such as Chrysalis, work with local businesses to build career pipelines for their clients and address any concerns on the employer’s end.

“We know from our 37 years of experience working with justice involved individuals that they are going to be the most loyal, most dedicated, and hardest working folks,” said Chrysalis President and CEO, Mark Loranger. “They recognize that somebody is giving them a second chance and they want to take advantage of the opportunity they’re being provided.”

Chrysalis works with many Santa Monica based employers including Stella Barra, Colorado Kitchen, Block by Block, Harvest Home, and The People Concern, to pair their clients with fulfilling and stable jobs.

Chrysalis recognizes that while many justice involved individuals lack prior job credentials, they have many skills to bring to the table from their unique and challenging life circumstances.

“Somebody, for example, that has experienced homelessness or had some challenges with mental health, can be connected with a role in government, social assistance or healthcare assisting folks with those same challenges,” said Loranger. “Not only are these career pathways that pay well and have high growth potential, but it really leverages the intrinsic skills that many of our program participants have.”

SECTOR is funded by a Prop 47 grant, and serves participants over the age of 18 who have been arrested, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense and who have struggled with mental health or substance use.

Part of the program’s goal is to expand the industry partners and career pathways that cater to justice involved individuals.

“We know the construction trade, for example, has for a longtime actively recruited people with justice involvement,” said Kate Vacanti, senior manager of ODR Reentry Workforce Initiatives. “But construction isn’t necessarily what everybody wants to do, so we saw that program as an opportunity to open doors to other sectors such as health care, social assistance, technology, and green jobs.”

To help participants stay enrolled in SECTOR, the program provides financial support during the job training phase and incentive payments for program participation and job retention.

Local employers who want to help hire justice involved individuals can partner with Chrysalis by visiting https://www.changelives.org/hire

Clara@smdp.com