South Los Angeles organization helps offenders rebuild their lives, learn new skills

In 2006, it was one class a week with 12 people, but now 14 classes in multiple communities.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Skipp Townsend is the executive director of 2nd call, an organization founded to save lives by reducing violence and now headquartered in a South Los Angeles building that used to be a juvenile courthouse -- a building where some were sentenced to life in prison now gives the most violent offenders a chance to be seen as something new.

"We don't deal with at-risk youth, we deal with the proven risk. We know what they're going to do if we don't intervene," he said.

Among other things, 2nd Call teaches re-entry life skills for people leaving prison. Back in 2006, it was one class a week with 12 people, but now its 14 classes in multiple communities.

Unlike other programs that might use researchers or highly-educated social workers, 2nd Call is run by mostly volunteers who teach from their own life experience on how to heal from low self-esteem or depression created by how they grew up.

"At 2nd Call I'm not here to fix it, I'm here to help the individuals address the issues. They have to realize they have these issues and I want to empower them to come up with a solution because the problem and the solution come from the same place. The victim and suspects both come from our community."

Not everyone in 2nd Call has been incarcerated. Shey Grayson is an example of someone who has never gone to prison, but 2nd Call helped her deal with the emotions of seeing others struggle in her community.

"Although I wasn't behind bars for many, many years, seeing my people I love and care about go through that. And people don't think about that, the families... it really, really, really affects us."

Healing comes with work and initially 2nd Call focused on getting participants jobs, but over time the focus shifted to provide careers instead. Hundreds of people from 2nd Call have become Union workers and supervisors.

"We put them in a position of power, so when they became in a union... now they have a 3,4 or 5-year apprenticeship program so when they journey out, they can take that anywhere in the world. They can be a carpenter, electrician, iron worker no matter where they go."

"2nd Call has honestly, really provided me with a way to get used to being in this environment. This is a male-dominated environment that I work in, and I am not a male. I am a girly girl. I get my nails done and I get to be here and thrive because of 2nd call," Grayson said.

"2nd Call is a way of life. It's not a program. You see programs start and end, you get your certificate and you go on. 2nd Call is continuous."

Mark Bowden says at 62, he might be the oldest Union Apprentice ever. His first union job, along with Grayson, is working at Sofi Stadium. 2nd Call helped him get there because even though he spent 40 years in prison, being in a room with successful people was inspiring as he learned from others who had overcome similar struggles.

"Although I'm a midget, I'm sitting in the presence of giants," Bowden said.

"I'm not a pipe-fitter, I'm not a steel worker but I'm sitting in the presence of individuals who are, and what that did, that helped lift me up to the point where I wanted to be a giant too."

Helping people become giants, it's a second chance for a community see a bright future thanks to 2nd Call.
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