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Lazarus Rite giving ex-offenders a route forward

Posted at 11:14 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 23:14:34-04

BALTIMORE — There is a nationwide shortage on drivers of all types.

Through the wheel of an old school bus, Christopher Ervin and his nonprofit The Lazarus Rite are putting people back in control of their future.

“I knew that the CDL career field was a pathway for people who had backgrounds but still wanted to be able to have a family and have economic viability and move forward,” Ervin said.

Ervin spent seven years in jail, and committed himself to criminal justice reform both while he was inside and when he got out.

Earning his CDL opened up doors to success for him—- for the past six years he’s been paying it forward.

“Sometimes people don’t want you to have the opportunity and the record becomes an excuse to not give the opportunity,” Ervin said. “In this CDL career path it doesn’t tend to effect people as much because for the most part they are working by themselves in a vehicle and moving from one point to another.”

The recidivism rate for people who go through the program is very low.

Robin Parrott came home from prison in 2016 right when Ervin was starting up the program.

He had his CDL Permit— but he couldn’t find anyone to train him to get his license.

He could see the same demons that plagued him years ago approaching in the rear view.

“It was very hard,” Parrott said. “Society doesn’t have mercy for those that’s coming home.”

He joined the program, got his license became a trainer and now he’s happily engaged.

“My life has come up, i don’t look back. I have no intentions of going back or looking back. I have grown so much. Things I thought about years ago I haven’t today.”

Even though these students are learning to drive on a school bus and we’ve documented the enormous need for drivers in districts around the area, they aren’t allowed to get jobs at school districts because of something called the Unit Rule and that’s something they are trying to change in Annapolis.

“That prohibits people from expunging that,” Ervin said. “That’s blocking a lot of people from driving school buses that may want to. Working with those type of vulnerable populations because they had a non violent felony but it’s still a non expungeable offense.”

Still there is a huge need for DPW, postal, delivery and all types of CDL drivers.

“This is the way, not only for those that are transferring back into society from prison, but those that’s on the corner,” Parrott said. “I would to train them young brothers and sisters.”

They train around 25 people in a class and partner with Baltimore City Community College to help students get their associates degree.

They are a nonprofit hoping to purchase another training vehicle so they can take on more students.

“We could be a seed for people in Baltimore City,” Ervin said. “As they come through our program knowing that they are going to go back to the communities that they come from they start to stabilize those communities by bringing in the economics of having a job, purchasing a home in that community, starting a family.”

Helping people shift gears and giving them the directions so they end up where they want to be.

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