One-Stop-Shop for Second Chance Opportunities

(Left to Right) Department of Public Works Director Mark Pestrella, Probation Chief Terri McDonald, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Arts Commission Executive Director Kristin Sakoda, and Office of Diversion and Reentry Director Judge Peter Espinoza. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County’s first-of-its-kind Reentry Opportunity Center officially opened on Friday, June 28th, 2019 near Exposition Park, providing a one-stop-shop for thousands of Probation clients, as well as their families, to access a wide array of services that can facilitate a successful transition back into society.

“This groundbreaking Center reflects a new but proven approach to making justice more restorative and humane while keeping our communities safe,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed the project and led the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This is an innovative one-stop shop where people can get help to find a job, go back to school, get connected to much-needed housing, get their record cleared, and receive healthcare, therapy and other services crucial to turning someone’s life around – the essential ingredients to giving them a second chance.”

Located at 3965 S. Vermont Avenue, the top floor of the 60,000-sq. ft., three-story modern building features a Developing Opportunities Offering Reentry Solutions Center (DOORS) – unique in the County – which will offer a range of services, including housing, legal aid, job training, education, civic engagement, and health and mental health services, all under one roof.

Chief Probation Officer Terri L. McDonald said the Center represents one of Probation’s strategic goals of delivering targeted, client-centered services through partnerships with other agencies and community-based organizations. “The strategic expansion of our partnerships for targeted resources empowers our clients by providing critical services for opportunity and growth,” she said. “We are certain that this teamwork will make a positive impact on the lives of clients who come through these doors.”

The Center represents a key milestone in shifting away from a punitive to a restorative model that will eventually be replicated across the County. It is the product of close collaboration among the Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Probation Department, Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR), and numerous community-based organizations and other County agencies.

“ODR is proud and humbled to be partnering with the Probation Department on LA County’s very first community reentry center,” ODR Executive Director Judge (ret.) Peter Espinoza. “The Center is envisioned to be a place of transformation and rehabilitation, bringing together County agencies and community-based organizations in a warm, welcoming and healing environment.”

A New Way of Life, which has housed and supported more than 1,000 formerly incarcerated women, will be among the nonprofit organizations to offer services at the Center. Its founder, Susan Burton, said, “For twenty years I have been doing the work of reentry for women. When they have needed services, they have had to trek to each individual service provider spread out across the County, which has been detrimental to their success. With this reentry center, the women I work with can go to one place and be connected to a wealth of resources. It was inspiring to be part of the vision and opening today.”

Jonathon Rios expressed his appreciation for the new Center in a spoken word performance, and cited himself as an example of what could happen when people are given a second chance. After a stint in prison, he turned his life around, graduating from college and starting a family. He has worked for the last 10 years at a real estate investment company, is an active member of the Empowerment Congress, and has performed at USC’s Theater for Social Justice and with KPCC’s Unheard LA series.

Rios had a message for those who would be receiving services at the new Center: “Do not allow perceived limitations to anchor you. Refuse to let your past mistake define you. Choose to succeed.”