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Vegas Lost: A model for the nation

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There might not be a more striking image than two guys sitting next to each other.

One was sentenced to sixty years in prison before he was old enough to drive, the other is the head of the prison system.

Today, Mario Taylor and James Dzurenda sit at arms-length. They are both working to change the system that has consumed much of their lives.

Taylor is here because of Hope for Prisoners. We talked to him about his journey from teenage prisoner to citizen in April.

"Let’s show ourselves and everyone else that yes, you committed a crime--but you deserve a second chance.”

Mario shared his story with us and last week he shared it with the Speaker of House.

Paul Ryan was in Las Vegas to see how he can bring the program that saved Mario to the federal level. He addressed a mixed group of former inmates and leaders of the justice system.

“We believe we need to redeem people within our communities and to help people get back on their feet, get back to redemption and to lead great lives", he said. “We believe there are answers already out in our community that shows us how to do this."

Hope for Prisoners works to help transition newly released inmates back to society. An estimated 60-percent of whom have been on the wrong side of the justice system since they were kids. The program gives them job training, teaches them life skills, holds them accountable to themselves and gives them parenting lessons.

Its founder, Jon Ponder created the program after he had difficulty finding his footing upon his release from federal prison. He served time for a series of bank robberies.

Since its inception, they have helped more than 2000 men and women. The key is a growing list of companies willing to partner with them, and their relationships with local law enforcement.

Congressman Ryan believes it could work as a model for the federal system.

“It really works, it's proven", he told Ponder. “We want to see this happen around the country and what we’re trying to do is back more efforts like this, make sure our laws allow for more efforts like this.”

It is unknown how a program similar to Hope for Prisoners would function federally.



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