Elaine Carson knows as well as anyone the struggles that former inmates face when returning to society.
After being released within the last year following a lengthy prison sentence, Carson has not only worked to become a productive member of society but to help others do the same. She said assisting others has helped her recovery process.
â€œI want to give back what was freely given to me,â€ she said.
Carson, who represents the Center for Living and Learning in Van Nuys, was one of many ex-convicts giving back to the community at Thursdayâ€™s Pasadena Altadena Reintegration Council resource fair.
PARC was created in 2010 by the Pasadena Police Department and Flintridge Center in response to the court-ordered release of thousands of inmates. Funding cuts meant services offered through the state parole office for former prisoners were no longer available, so PARC began holding resource fairs. Dozens of community organizations provide free services for ex-convicts â€“ helping them gain employment and stay out of trouble.
The majority of the service providers were represented by employees who have had legal trouble in the past. Speakers shared their stories of recovery from addiction. Some had been clean for decades, others for just a few months. The message for everyone was that help is available for those willing to work.
Randolph Anderson Jr., 46, of Pasadena, said the resources offered through the fair are helpful for people like him when searching for a job. After serving time, Anderson said the biggest obstacles were getting an automobile, creating a rÃ©sumÃ© and learning how to communicate well.
Connie Aguilar, who helps provide child care through Options, has seen the cost of incarceration from the other side as a mother of a prisoner. She watched her son miss important events in his childâ€™s life and the deaths of his grandparents.
â€œItâ€™s a very sad situation. The whole family suffers,â€ she said. â€œNo mother has a child and thinks, â€˜I want my child to be a career prisoner.â€™ You feel so hopeless and helpless.â€
Across the state, 70 percent of former inmates will be arrested within three years for a new crime or a parole or probation violation. Local officials hope to break this cycle, but employment remains the biggest obstacle.
Numerous organizations involved in the fair help former prisoners find jobs.
â€œPeople who were incarcerated should have a second chance,â€ said Serafin Garcia, an employment specialist who works for the city. â€œThese are good people. In the past, they probably did something stupid.â€
The next resource fair will be held Thursday, August 15 from noon until 1:30 p.m. at 500 East Villa Street in Pasadena. For information, please call (626) 449-0839 ext 109.