When James Smith was released on parole in 2007, the Department of Corrections gave him $200 and pointed him out the door—he had no support, nowhere to go, nothing but the clothes on his back. It had been years since he had been on the outside. In a matter of months, Smith was asking his parole officer whether he could be sent back to prison rather than finish parole. Without a job, life outside proved to be difficult—too uncertain. “I couldn’t find a job,” said the 45-year-old Oakland native. “It’s like being a pariah.”

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