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Criminal Justice

Young Adults Trade Jail Time For Learning Carpentry In New LA Pilot Program

The union's Brothers’ Keeper program aims to help the formerly incarcerated and other underserved L.A. residents.
(Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images)
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Twenty young adults facing felony charges could avoid jail time thanks to a new pilot diversion program from Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s office. Instead, they’ll work towards a career in carpentry.

The program, called READY, is a collaboration with the Southwest Carpenters union. It will place adults ages 18-25 in one of the union’s apprenticeships, such as the four-week Brothers’ Keeper program, which aims to help the formerly incarcerated and other underserved L.A. residents.

Union president Frank Hawk said he’s happy about the new pilot program.

“In construction, we're an organization of second chances,” Hawk said. “And we understand somebody that might have got in a little bit of trouble, and it's a tough, tough industry. So when they come through an apprenticeship, it's almost like a boot camp itself.”

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The program offers a pathway to become a union carpenter with full benefits, including a pension. The program will partner with Homeboy Industries, Second Call, and Volunteers of America. Giving someone the opportunity to have a well paying job, which they otherwise might not have, can help steer them in the right direction, Hawk said.

The pilot program is one element of a larger cooperation between the carpenters union and the DA’s office. They’re also working together to help prevent wage theft — employers not paying for work their employees have performed — and tax fraud.

Gascón’s office cited a 2020 study that found up to 21% of the construction workforce, which includes approximately 2.4 million workers, are paid off the books or misclassified as independent contractors. The estimated tax loss to federal and state governments is $8.4 billion.

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