Hope For Prisoners Founder Returns To Vegas After Eventful RNC Appearance
Three Las Vegans made an appearance during night two of the Republican National Convention last week.
One of those people was Jon Ponder, the founder of Hope for Prisoners, an organization that helps former inmates reintegrate into society.
Ponder was once a federal inmate himself, as he was a convicted bank robber.
But President Donald Trump kicked off that night of the convention by granting Ponder a full presidential pardon.
"In that moment, when it had taken place, I had no idea that it was coming," Ponder said of the pardon, "What a wonderful surprise."
Ponder said there had been conversations over the years about a pardon but he didn't know ahead of time that it was going to happen.
"I had a flashback over the last 14, 15 years of my life and where I started from and where this journey has taken me. It was almost as if it had all culminated in that moment," he said.
He said when he got home his email box was filled with messages from people encouraged by his story, especially by people who have family who are incarcerated.
Ponder was also pardoned by Gov. Steve Sisolak
"I'm honored. It's an absolute honor to have both of those pardons," he said, "Over the last 10 years since my release from prison my background has not really stopped me from doing anything, but it was such a statement from both of them from the state and from the presidential pardon that the works that we're doing over the last 10 years was noticed and impacting the lives of the men and women, who were home from our judicial system.
Help for Prisoners is a nonprofit that provides robust wraparound services for prisoners who are getting out of prison. They not only provide job search and placement services but they also connect people with mentors to help them reintegrate into the society outside of prison.
And another key part of the effort is they help those people reintegrate with their families and teach them the life skills for returning to being a father and husband or a mother and wife.
Ponder said his organization works to lay down a good foundation from the beginning.
"That's one thing that we've found, and I tell you from my own personal experience, is that the majority of people from this segment of the population they really want to change, they have no idea how to do it," he said.
He said for years people leaving prison have been told to become a "productive member of society" but they have no idea what that looks like.
Ponder said his group started in 2009 and really got rolling in 2012. Since then, it has dealt with 3,500 people and its recidivism rate is only 6 percent.
Hope for Prisoners works closely with the Department of Corrections, parole and probation and Las Vegas Metro Police.
Ponder said the partnership between Metro Police and Hope for Prisoners should be a model for communities around the country.
"The model that Hope for Prisoners has built up with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the work that we've done over the last decade could be a model for America," he said.
Ponder said Hope for Prisoners will be having a call with law enforcement across the country on Sept. 3 talk about how Metro and the nonprofit are working together to help people get back into society.
Jon Ponder, founder, Hope for Prisoners