The Latino Media Collaborative has launched a website designed to provide resources to formerly incarcerated people throughout the Inland Empire and the rest of Southern California.
The website, called StepForwardCA.com, directs formerly incarcerated people to organizations in their area that provide services like job placement, mental health treatment, and legal services.
Armando Carmona is Program Manager with the Latino Media Collaborative.
“We're creating resource guides that can speak to people that have been impacted by the war on drugs, their families, and provide them a sense of hope, a sense that they are not alone, and really an understanding that there are resources there to support them and their transition into looking for new opportunities and second chances,” Carmona says.
One of the organizations that StepForwardCA.com directs people to is called Starting Over Inc., which provides transitional housing and job placement.
Erica Smith got involved with the organization after being on probation and utilizing Starting Over’s transitional housing program.
Now, she does peer support and community organizing with them.
"Once you've been in criminal justice system, it's really not designed to uplift you in any way. In fact, it often destroys people mentally, tears families apart, and so the end result when you come out is you're very broken because while you're in there they treat you like you're nothing, they tell that you that you're nothing, and they, you know, that you'll never amount to anything," Smith says.
"And so you come out really broken, and so it's really important to have organizations like Starting Over Inc. to be able to help catch people. Because the criminal justice system, they just let you go. They don't really care about the human, the person, right? So we're there and we can catch people and then help support them with the services, finding resources and things like that, which allows them to elevate, you know. We help them with getting their voice back and knowing that they can do things and so that they can move forward into life, you know, places in life they want to be.”