Nonprofit working to help former inmates find jobs, get back into society

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Finding a job after being incarcerated can be tough, and getting the paperwork needed to become a contributing member of society can be even harder, but there are programs to help those who have been locked up get back on their feet.

More than 2,000 men and women have graduated from Texas Reach Out Ministries since they opened their doors 21 years ago. Now, with more resources, they are hoping to continue offering support to recently released inmates.

“The stigma attached is so hard to overcome,” said Justin Turner, a former inmate.

After getting out of prison, Turner found himself asking, “What’s next?”

“When you come out, there are just so many things that are against you,” Turner said.

He turned to Texas Reach Out Ministries for help.

“Thank God, I mean that literally because they (Texas Reach Out Ministries) have a lot of connections and a lot of people,” Turner said.

Some inmates who get out of prison end up back behind bars, but Dale Brown, executive director of Texas Reach Out Ministries, is working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“When they are coming out, there is a lot of fear and anxiety, especially when you are a felon,” Brown said.

The program accepts about 40% of its applicants. Once accepted and out of prison, the men and women are picked up and brought to the homes they will be living in.

“Within a few days, we get them a job, we take them to parole — which is mandatory — then take them through the bureaucratic processes of food stamps and getting an ID,” Brown said.

Turner says there is a lot working against those who are released from prison.

“In our house next door, four out of the five came out with no social security, no birth certificate and no ID,” Turner said.

The organization works with about 48 men and women at a time. The former inmates are spread out between eight houses in Austin. Three of the homes are for women and the other five are for men.

“If they fail then everyone loses, society loses, their family loses, the taxpayer loses,” Brown said.

For Turner, failing isn’t an option. He is now taking this opportunity to succeed.

“They just do everything they can to help you,” Turner said.

Residents usually stay between six months to a year, and drug testing is required to stay in the homes.

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