RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Finding a job can be hard.
But add a criminal record to your background, and it can be even harder to get back on your feet.
Sen. Tim Kaine stopped by a program in Richmond Friday that helps pair former prisoners with in-demand trades.
It’s called the Adult Alternative Program.
“An awful lot of people when they get out of jail or prison have a really hard time getting work because the fact of their criminal record gets in their way,” Kaine said.
People like Jesse Montajue who knows the struggle firsthand.
“It’s really tough out there to get a job and focus on everyday life,” Montajue said.
He’s been out of prison for 13 years. Now, he’s a student with the program, trying to get his life back on track.
His vision is to become an entrepreneur.
Kenneth Williams says he can relate to many former prisoner’s predicaments.
“I’ve been there, done that,” Williams said.
Williams is the CEO of the Adult Alternative Program and owns a construction company.
He put together this program to show ex-cons they do have a shot at success. It provides character-development and training in construction.
“This is like a haven,” Williams said. “It’s like a haven for hope.”
He’s had two felony convictions himself.
“It would be remiss of me not to give something back,” Williams said.
Eventually, the goal is for students to become class-c contractors. Williams said in this line of work, skill is more important than your arrest record.
He also says the pay is attractive.
“So, we tell the hustlers, keep your hustle — change your product,” Williams said.
Williams carved his own path for success, despite his history. Now, he’s trying to get others to follow in his footsteps.
“If I can change my life, anyone can change theirs,” Montajue said.
Williams said he takes a lot of pride in his work.
“When I walk past and see those men and women sitting in those classrooms, it just moves me,” he said.
The program also offers skill sets and faith-based teaching to at-risk youth 18-25 years old.