This spring semester, a group of 17 Providence students visited Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles to learn more about the prison system and the challenges of reentry into society for former offenders.

According to the organization’s website, “Homeboy provides job training positions and free social services for formerly gang involved and previously incarcerated men and women.” Each month, up to 1,000 people walk through the doors of Homeboy Industries to receive tattoo removals, counseling, classes, and job training. Homeboy has an outstanding success rate of attendees graduating, receiving their GED, and finding jobs, and is recognized as a leader in gang intervention.

To support the costs and to provide job opportunities, the organization offers social enterprises, including the famous Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Cafe, both of which sell products at 24 farmer’s markets in Southern California.

“I was really intrigued with the whole process of Homeboy Industries,” says Alexis Vasquez ’19, who participated in the Avodah. “I didn’t know they offered jobs and classes to ex-convicts, and during the trip, I witnessed how God can work in someone’s life to get them on the right path and care for themselves and their relationship with their families.”

During this visit, students heard from Bobby, who spent the better part of 26 years in prison for “everything in the book but murder.” Over the past eight months, he has connected with Homeboy Industries, has found faith in Jesus, and is on track with social services to spend more time with his wife and kids. He has been consistently attending the free classes provided by the organization and hopes to graduate in the future and find a job to support his family.

Prior to visiting Homeboy Industries, the students met and discussed the increase in incarceration rates and specifically their connection with American history and race. Students also watched a portion of Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th, which chronicles the connection of African Americans in prison after the 13th amendment.