By Douglas Broome, Parole Agent III
Photos by Jennifer Barnes, Parole Agent I, and Velda Clark, Parole Agent I

One-hundred-sixty offenders recently took steps to reclaim a crime-free life by participating in the Los Angeles Central Parole District’s (LAC) Long Term Offender Job Fair.

On April 7, Parole Administrator Vincent Thompson, Parole Agent (PA) III Douglas Broome, PA II Paul Cooper, PA II Dawn Jackson-Harris, PA I Deondra Tisdale , PA I Keina Saulsberry with the Los Angeles Central and Mid City Parole District hosted the first ever job fair specifically targeted toward the lifer parolee population.

The event, held at the parole complex, was conceived out of an overwhelming need and desire to assist the long-term offender population with obtaining gainful employment to reduce recidivism and provide a cornerstone upon which to build a foundation for future success.

Parole agents are aware of the issues and challenges that this population faces on a daily basis. The goal of agents is to assist individuals with services and referrals specific to their needs and actively be a member of their support system. Through this partnership, agents are able to facilitate the parolee’s transition from prison back into the community. This job fair represents one of the many services and programs available to this population.

Due to changes in state law, the Long Term Offenders – also known as the Lifer Parolees – have been released from state prison more often.  In light of these changes, the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) has developed programs and services to assist with the transition of individuals, who have been incarcerated for 15, 20, 30, and even 40 years, with life skills, relationship building, and job development and exploration.

The job fair is one such effort by the LAC and Mid City district to assist and ease this population back into society.

“This job fair was the culmination of tremendous efforts from many different fronts: Our agents who work diligently with parolees to help them commit to their plan and overcome reentry challenges; the service agencies who partner with us; and the parolees themselves,” said Deputy Director Bobby Haase, who attended the job fair. “Events like this are an illustration of parole agents working collaboratively with community organizations to provide opportunities to those parolees ready to commit to a plan of success. I am thankful and proud of our parole team for recognizing the need and initiating this event.  I am equally proud of the previously incarcerated life term men and women who took advantage of this opportunity to overcome one of many reentry challenges. They are making a commitment to work hard, learn new job skills, learn how to interview, and how to provide for themselves and their families.  This job fair is one way to provide them the opportunity to reclaim a crime-free life. It was an absolute pleasure for me to stand next to our dedicated parole employees while they facilitated another worthwhile event.”

What started off as a simple idea of assisting parolees with obtaining employment, developed and culminated into what could only be best described as wildly successful, a job fair that was standing room only.  The goal of the job fair was to match job seekers with employers who were ready to hire.  The employers who assisted and participated in the job fair covered a variety of different jobs ranging from construction to truck driving and from cable repair to the California Department of Transportation.  Depending on the ex-offenders’ skill set and employment preferences, if they wanted a job, there was one available for them.

In addition to employers, the job fair provided and paired participants with services and referrals to the Employment Development Department, Department of Rehabilitation and Veteran Medical Center.

“The individuals, who put this on, did an outstanding job. It was good to bring employers together to help Long Term Offenders to become more productive citizens. The Long Term Offenders appear to be appreciative,” said Parole Administrator Thompson. “They wanted to be here and took advantage of the resources that were given by the providers. Our efforts were acknowledged by Deputy Director Haase who showed support and taking time out of his schedule.”

All of the long-term offenders who attended the job fair were required to dress in business attire and provide a current resume. Through a partnership with Los Angeles Trade Technical College, the parole districts, with the assistance of Parole Agent I Anthony Marquez, LAC 1, was able to arrange for suits, shoes and other business attire to be donated to the long term offenders who were in need of appropriate attire.

“It was great to see that we as Parole Agents were able to partner with local businesses and organizations to develop a system of working together for the benefit of supporting our lifer population,” said Agent Marquez. “As an agent who is actively supervising lifers, it was powerful to see 150 plus lifers at the Parole complex attending something that we had a big part in. That just shows me that our message to them is not falling on deaf ears.”

The line of ex-offenders, eager to participate, stretched from the second floor conference room, down the stairs and out through the building’s front doors. In a sea of well-dressed individuals, resumes in hand, one could hear echoes of long-term offenders stating how thankful and appreciative they were about the job fair.

“The success of the Long Term Offender Job Fair left me with feelings of excitement, accomplishment and a strong sense of pride in this population,” said Parole Agent II Dawn Jackson-Harris. “This population showed up. They looked amazing from head to toe. They beamed with self-pride inside and out. They were prepared and ready for success. I cannot rave enough about the support and commitment that was given by all entities and people who had a hand in making this an amazing event.  I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Due to the overwhelming success of this event, DAPO, the agents, employers, and parolees are eagerly looking forward to their upcoming job fair tentatively scheduled for the third quarter of 2016.