From left County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella, Probation Chief Terri McDonald, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Arts Commission Executive Director Kristin Sakoda and Reentry Director Judge Peter Espinoza cut the ribbon to open the Reentry and Opportunity Center. (Los Angeles County)

The new Los Angeles County Reentry Opportunity Center aims to increase successful outcomes for probation clients.

Described as a one-stop shop, the facility houses community and county service providers to assist clients with a second chance to change the trajectory of their life. The DOORS or Developing Opportunities Offering Reentry Solutions section contains representatives to aid with housing, jobs, training, legal assistance, mental health services and more.

“The center represents not only elevated services, but a meaningful second chance to demonstrate what is possible when county government collaborates with the community that it serves – someone is given another opportunity to succeed,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas during the grand opening celebration on June 28.

Supv. Ridley-Thomas poses with Probation Dept. staff executives. (Los Angeles County)

“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 new 60,000-square-feet building, located at 3965 S. Vermont Ave. in South Los Angeles, provides intake and check-in space on the first floor, staff offices on the second floor and the DOORS center on the third floor. Also, brightly colored murals decorate the walls throughout the facility.

Modeled after New York’s Neighborhood Opportunity Network, DOORS’ on-site services will be conducted by staff from A New Way of Life, Chrysalis, Five Keys Schools and Programs, Legal Aid Foundation of L.A., SSG/HOPICS, and the county departments of Mental Health, Public Health, Public Social Services and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services. Ridley-Thomas added that plans are underway to open the Homeboy Art Academy to “infuse arts and culture programming into clients” and enhance professional development skills.

The various services will not only be available to probation clients, but also to their families, young people and neighboring residents as well. According to Chief Probation Officer Terry L. McDonald, the center represents a partnership with the community.

Ridley-Thomas joins the county staff, service providers and community members in celebrating the new center. (Los Angeles County)

“This is the community’s center. It is available for you. You don’t have to be one of our clients,” McDonald said. “When our clients and employees enter the space, I want them to know that they are valued and that there is healing and help here. This center creates that opportunity. It’s a place where we don’t care where you came from, we just want to help you.”

Other officials touted the new center as a shift from a punitive to a restorative model that will eventually be replicated across the County. The effort became a reality thanks to the collaboration between Ridley-Thomas’ office, Probation Department, Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR), other county agencies and several community-based organizations.

“We are proud to be partnering with our community-based organizations, who will provide services in this space, and our county departments, who will be supporting the work,” noted Judge Peter Espinoza, ODR director. We are committed to the principles that in order that to eliminate recidivism; you must eliminate barriers for successful reentry. Our program is committed to identifying those barriers and eliminating them.”

Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life, and Probation Chief Terri McDonald share a light-hearted moment during the grand opening. (Los Angeles County)

Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life, also remarked on the impact of the Reentry Opportunity Center. After commending the leadership of Ridley-Thomas in spearheading the facility, Burton said, “I’m excited to be one of the providers here and excited to see what happens when we wrap our arms around the people that come here for service. We can give them a hand up.”

Burton has a 20-year history of working with people affected by the justice system. Her organization
operates seven homes where it has housed more than 1,000 women and children, reunited 300+ women with their children and extended free legal services to over 2,500 formerly incarcerated individuals.

Jonathan Rios was another celebrant of the center and pointed to own life to illustrate the benefits of getting a second chance. After a stint in prison, he graduated from college, started a family and has worked at a real estate investment company for the last 10 years.

Rios inspired with audience with a spoken word performance and shared advice to those who would be receiving services at the new center. “Do not allow perceived limitations to anchor you,” he said. “Refuse to let your past mistakes define you. Choose to succeed.”