“I look at my life today and I feel like I’m a new person who is trying to fix this other person’s life so I can get on with my own,” says Anton Mann, 43.
Anton is one of 25 current participants in a special job-training program for formerly incarcerated individuals seeking sustainable jobs that are “felony friendly” and pay a livable wage. The program is called the Reentry Bridges to Career Opportunities. It is funded through a grant from the Department of Labor (DOL) that was given to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to support reentry programs in five cities, including Detroit.
Southwest Solutions’ Earn + Learn program is implementing the reentry project in Detroit. Earn + Learn connects participants with effective job-training opportunities and provides work-readiness training, case management, job and financial coaching, and access to other support services that returning citizens need.
Anton’s criminal activities started when he was a teenager in Detroit. He dropped out of high school as a freshman to sell drugs. In 1995, when he was 20 years old, he was convicted of felonious assault in a drug-related shootout and then spent five years in prison. Two years after his release, Anton went back to prison for 17 months for violating his probation. His second return to society did not last long. He was caught again selling drugs and was re-incarcerated.
Anton got out this March and has been living at a halfway house for former inmates, where he learned about the reentry program. One of program’s job training partners is Anbeyon Truck Driving School in Detroit. Anton completed the 8-week course at the school and is now testing for his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
“I decided to become a truck driver because the demand is great and I have no time to waste in getting my future together,” Anton says. “It’s definitely a transition for me to prepare for a career, but I never felt good about the life of crime and drugs that I led before, and I always wanted a way out. This is a good start to reenter society for good.”
Anton’s goal is to earn enough from truck driving to support his family and then pursue his college degree so he can have a professional career. He got his GED and took some college courses in prison. He also married his wife when he was in prison, and they have a daughter who is now 10.
“I’ve grown to understand the importance of education and I want to be a positive role model of my daughter,” Anton says.
In order to work toward his CDL, Anton needed legal assistance to reinstate his driver’s license and clear driver responsibility fees. Lakeshore Legal Aid partners with the Earn + Learn reentry program to provide free legal services to participants.
“Without Lakeshore’s help, getting my CDL wouldn’t be possible,” Anton says.
Like Anton, Paul Walker is seeking to become a truck driver because the job is felony-friendly and pays well. Paul, 52, is an Air Force veteran who spent a total 20 years in prison for separate convictions for credit card fraud and bank robbery. He was released on May 29 and then enrolled in the reentry program.
“A person gets tired of doing wrong and getting locked up,” Paul says. “I want to make a change in my life and be in a position to take care of myself and my daughter. She’s 9, and I don’t want to be a deadbeat dad.”
In addition to truck driving, participants in the reentry program can train for jobs in hi-lo driving and the skilled trades. To be eligible for the program, participants must be currently on parole or probation, or released from parole or probation within six months of applying for the program. They must also reside in certain Detroit zip codes. To learn more about the program and eligibility, contact Angie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-297-0099.