How a nonprofit rehabilitation program is helping formerly incarcerated Coloradans get back on their feet

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Itzel Gonzalez oversees the WAGEES program at Servicios de La Raza.

“What we do is we provide all kinds of support services to people who have just come out of incarceration, men and women, from the age of eighteen to… well, we we’ve had people who are over seventy,” Gonzalez said. men and women come to Servicios de La Raza, Gonzalez said, they are assigned a case manager who works with them for 90 days. During that time, the nonprofit helps people find a employment and other financial aid.

Owens says when he got out of prison, he was given a hundred dollars and good luck wishes. “It does not bring you much in this world. Maybe a hotel room for a night or some food,” Owens said. “At Servicios de La Raza, they helped me with food and clothes. They helped me find a job. I am now an apprentice pipefitter.”

Ryan Owens told Rocky Mountain PBS that he might be homeless without the help of a rehabilitation program.

Heguy thinks Servicios de La Raza’s WAGEES program gave him some direction. And the resources offered by the organization are invaluable.

“Getting a job was very important to me because it gave me responsibilities. Being sober is the most important thing to me because it keeps you away from all the bad decisions you’ve made all your life,” Heguy explained. Having my own place was important to me because I need a place where I can be alone with my thoughts after being so overwhelmed by the outside world after not being there for so long.”

According to statistics from the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization that tracks trends in incarcerated populations, 47% of people released from prison are re-arrested within a year of their release. Of the 303 clients the WAGEES program has helped since July 2020, only 4% have returned to prison.

Gonzalez said everyone needed help and deserved a second chance.

“We live in very difficult times. From employment to, well, the cost of living in Denver is absolutely mind-boggling,” Gonzalez said. , go figure”. What do we expect from them?

[Related: Parolee describes returning to society during a pandemic after 26 years in prison]

Heguy wants to win a scholarship to the Colorado School of Mines to study astrophysics and geology. Owens said without Servicios de La Raza he doesn’t know where he would be. “I might be homeless,” he said. “I might be back doing the same things that got me to jail in the first place.”


Dana Knowles is a media reporter at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at [email protected].

Julio Sandoval is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at [email protected].

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