Kofi Darku:On this episode of the Skill Up Build Up podcast, we're going to continue to dive into the justice-involved population with our guest David Gaspar. He works with The Bail Project and he's going to help us understand why justice-involved individuals are great employees. Let's go!
Kofi Darku:We're back on the Skill Up Build Up podcast where we are leading talent to thrive. I'm your host Kofi Darku here with David Gaspar, the regional operations manager for The Bail Project. Welcome David.
David Gaspar:Thank you.
Kofi Darku:David and I go back. We've done some work here in Indianapolis with the Marion County Reentry Coalition and in that same type of thinking, we've been talking about different populations that we know need better access to a workforce and opportunities. We've definitely covered our second chance and justice-involved populations and we're going to do that a little bit more, but before we dig into that, since David and I go back, I'm thinking about his place of where he first resided, where he was born, where he was from, California, and for any NBA or basketball fans out there, he is a pretty die hard Golden State Warriors fan and it's a little fun to talk to him about his team since he is from the West Coast,
David Gaspar:Which is the best coast!
Kofi Darku:Okay. Okay. Hold on, now. We are in the Midwest and I'm sure there are a lot of Lakers fans and there could, could have been a lot of Golden State fans, but they may have jumped off the bandwagon seeing how things just turned out about six weeks ago.
David Gaspar:That's very true. But I also have a legitimate argument for why the West Coast is the best coast.
Kofi Darku:Oh well let's hear it.
David Gaspar:They call it the Midwest, right? Not the Mideast.
Kofi Darku:Ooooooh, you know, I have never thought about how-- it's true, maybe because of how the country was developing, the West was anything close to the Mississippi. But you're right, it's not called the Mideast. The orientation doesn't start from the West, but East-Coasters, if you have some type of response to that, that's a pretty strong shot right there. You know, it is the Midwest, not the Mideast, and therefore he's calling the West Coast the best coast. Well, I will say that, being a longtime NBA fan, it seems like the Western Conference definitely is continuing to assert itself with having the higher number of better teams, at least on the paper. So I don't know if that makes you the best, but I'm conceding a little bit when it comes to the NBA.
David Gaspar:I appreciate that.
Kofi Darku:It's because you're a guest, you know, if you're not on the show, maybe we go a little harder on this, but enough about that. David, you do some really, really important work with The Bail Project and as we say, you came from the West Coast. It's not easy for everyone to know someone's story or background, but you experienced some, some difficult things early in your life. Can you tell us about your background and specifically how that led to incarceration?
David Gaspar:Absolutely. I was originally born in Santa Clara, San Jose, which is the bay area of California. I was raised in an environment that, that wasn't unique to anybody in, in that neighborhood or in that time frame. You know, mother, you know, experienced, you know, drug addiction. And then stepfather was an alcoholic. Out of five children, I was the only one that my mother retained. I did have an older brother that stayed with us for a little bit, but that was about a year and a half total, you know, over our lifetimes that we actually lived together. Within that, five years old, first time I was taken away from my mother for neglect. My mother got me back. She got my brother back. I at one point, seven years old, suffered a drug overdose and I spent two weeks in a coma, came back home. About six months later, I was shot for the first time in a domestic violence incident. After that, my mom was like, we're going to get out of San Jose. It's just not a good place. We moved to Fresno, California, which for those who are from California and the West Coast, they know that the '80s in Fresno was not a good place to be. No, not at all. And we actually started off kinda rough. My stepfather and his alcoholism. We moved into one apartment complex and he got drunk and walked into the apartment complex next to ours, walked into the wrong apartment, beat up a 17-year-old and a 12-year-old, threw them out of their own apartment, cause he thought that they were in his apartment. Just so happened that we were in a gang neighborhood and immediately just set the tone for "these aren't going to be my friends." Approximately 30 days later, we moved because of the violence that we were encountering.
Kofi Darku:Yeah, I can imagine that escalated quickly. Whew.
David Gaspar:Yeah. Overnight. So based on that, moved to another neighborhood, and it happened to be a predominantly black neighborhood and I myself, I'm a Mexican, but I look white and now I'm in a black neighborhood and there's a whole lot to learn very quickly as well. But, you know, it was a matter of time, earned, you know, everybody's respect, you know, went in there, lived a life that I had to live in in order to be successful in an environment that I was subjected to in that moment. At 12 years old, joined the gang for the first time, 12 years old. I also experienced my first arrest. 15 years old, I got my girlfriend pregnant. I also got shot for the second time at 15 years old, and I went to school, got into a fight, probably a lot of it was based upon the frustration and stress and everything else going through with a pregnant girlfriend and everything else going on in my world, and accidentally punched a boy in the throat and got arrested for assault. And so that kind of just put me on this course of, you know, where am I going to be? You know, I'm in juvenile now. I'm trying to figure out my life, you know, making all my prayers. The guy wrote a letter to the judge saying, "Hey, if you just give me another chance, I'm going to turn my life around. You know, I'm going to be good. All I need is some help." Guy came through for me, got me out. I ended up doing some extensive probation. I remember my probation officer back then, his name was Roger Luna. And, he was so hard on me. Like I, I swore he hated me. But, when I actually went and talked to him and I explained to him that I felt like if I stayed in Fresno, I was going to die and I was going to jeopardize the life of my son, and so he actually allowed me to move to Washington state and on the condition that I wouldn't get into any trouble. I was only 16 years old.
David Gaspar:And I, I made that agreement with him and I went up to Washington state. And over time, you know, you, you can leave your environment but you can't leave yourself behind. So I brought a lot of who I was to Washington state and I thought that I could get away with certain things and just progressively over the years started, doing, you know, selling weed, and I was trying to just justify it in my mind that I'm doing what I need to do to support my family. But in all reality, I was running from what I could have been accomplishing with that same energy and effort. At 22 years old, I was pretty much far gone. I was robbing people. I wasn't on drugs or alcohol, I just had gotten addicted to the money and the ease of it and the enjoyment of being able to say that I had it in the things that it, you know, helped me acquire, so, you know, there, there was somewhat of an addictive pleasure in robbing and getting the money as a result. And at 22 years old, I ended up being arrested for three first round robberies, a series of other smaller successive crimes that they always piggyback on top. And I was facing 68 years in prison and I took a plea bargain for 20 years, nine months.
Kofi Darku:Wow. Man. Thank you for sharing that story. That's a bit of information and, and I'm very happy that the man sitting across the table from me has made it through all those things. That's, that's kind of, I'm sure you are way happier than I am, but that's a lot to take in and I think it just goes to show you never know what someone has gone through in order to get to where they are right now. And I think it's obvious in this, this episode we're trying to emphasize that there are some populations out there that often get overlooked. And if you look at a stat sheet or some type of, layer of information that doesn't give you the full picture, you make, in my opinion, the wrong choice. There are often times where there's individuals out there that may have gone through things that you can't even imagine. But if you see what they've gone through, you may write them off. That's usually not the wisest way to be, especially in a time when talent is really hard to come by. So, so that happened, you served the time you served and you eventually get out. How, what, what are some of your main goals when you get out? What are some of the first things you're trying to do when you get out?
David Gaspar:So there was, there were a few key moments for me. Being sentenced to 21 years and knowing that you, you willingly agree to it, there is, there's a lot to cope with in that, especially coming from the background and that environment. You never cower down. You never back down, until death you die. And you know, so there was some humility and some, some, really deep processing I had to do with myself as to why did I give in and what was I really hoping to achieve from, from making that decision? And you know, my soul searching, it really boiled down to, I wasn't happy with my life. I wasn't happy, you know, no amount of money was ever going to change how I felt inside. So I, I had to find that inside of myself. So that was a really important conversation that I had with myself. As a result, I got my GED, when I was in prison. My GED led me to taking some college courses. They didn't actually have degree programs, because the Pell Grants, all that had been taken away by the time that I was incarcerated. But they had a local community college that was doing computer services, technology courses. So I took the course, graduated with honors, 3.8 grade point average, ended up becoming a teacher's assistant for the next class to follow. And I got in the law library and I started teaching myself law.
Kofi Darku:That's awesome!
David Gaspar:I didn't have the money or the resources to pay for an attorney, plus I had taken a plea bargain, so everybody, everybody, I don't think I found one person that even believed my argument that I would be able to withdraw my plea and go back to court, but I fought it and after five years, I started to make some progress and I started winning, and it went all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court. They ruled in my favor and they said that I should have the right to withdraw my plea and get a new trial.
David Gaspar:The state appealed it, and in that appeal process, it pushed me all the way back down to lower apellate courts, the state gave me an attorney at that point, a public defender to help me with my case. And I've, I remember our very first phone call, I won't say his last name, but his first name was Chris. And we were on the phone and he told me two things. He was like, "I can't believe that you actually filed this appeal because it was probably one of the dumbest things you could do." And his explanation was that, "now you're facing 68 years all over again." And my response to that was, "21 years or 68, they both feel like life, and I need to go home."
Kofi Darku:I get that.
David Gaspar:Then his second thing that he said to me is, "I've already talked to the state and they're willing to knock five years off your sentence." And I told him that that's not good enough. So we went all the way back to the Supreme Court again. I won. They had to take me back to court. It is when I was in jail again that I was tested. So what I mean by tested -- while I was fighting my appeal and all my hope, and I'm sitting there and I'm dreaming and envisioning the life that I want to live. When I get out, I'm going to reconnect with my kids. I'm gonna reconnect and with my family and I'm just really gonna go out there. And I really told myself, I don't care if I work at McDonald's, Domino's Pizza. I don't care if I gotta walk everywhere or ride a bus. Like I was so humble and shoot, I'm just excited to even have the opportunity to go home. And whatever that freedom looked like for me, homelessness, it didn't matter. I wanted to be there. And then I was in county jail for eight and a half months. And county jail is a horrible place to be. Even from, for somebody who's been in prison, going to county jail, it is still a horrible environment to be subjected to.
Kofi Darku:And what made it... So it seems like county jail was worse than prison. What made it worse? What made it worse?
David Gaspar:So in prison you're living with other individuals that have length of time, that this becomes their home, and there's a certain level of respect that comes along with that. There's a certain level of understanding of the communities that are formed and shaped within prison. But in county jail, you can be in there with somebody who was there for a night, two weeks, three months. You're in there with people that are coming off of, you know, drug sickness. You got people that haven't, you know, really been able to take care of themselves. You have mental health issues that aren't being properly addressed and all of these things are shoved into one pod. All these things are shoved into one room. So now you're in that room with multiple individuals that have all of these varying, you know, things going on and you, even though you don't have the same backgrounds that they have, you're now subjected to the life that they are most comfortable and frequent or, recently living. And that's really hard to deal with. You're in there with guys that have just recently become separated from their families, and they're on the phone and they're crying and they're asking people to help them. And it just reminds you of like that moment in your life when you felt just as much as in need of somebody's love and support, and it's just, really is hard and challenging to deal with.
Kofi Darku:That distinction is understandable. I think, oftentimes, people who haven't been in prison, media, movies have, you know, portrayed it in certain ways. So it's good to get real accounts of what's different, because yeah, I can't see either prison or the county jail being a positive place, but I could see that within a prison environment there's going to be more stability and probably more calm, because people have accepted what, what their term is, whereas the county jail, if it's that new and that fresh, they have not accepted, much greater instability and probably erratic stuff, which is not good for someone who's trying to come to peace with things. So, so you go to the county jail and you, this is part of the plea. What, what transpires after that?
David Gaspar:So I'm, I sat in the county for eight and a half months. At some point my friends on the streets put together some money and they hired me a private attorney. And my public defender's just kinda, he's telling me, "just take the five years," the same five years that I was offered at the, you know, the beginning of my second round of appeals and there was no movement. I couldn't get any other conversation out of my public defender. So my friends put up the money, the private attorney comes in and asks me, "what is it that you really want?" He was like, "do you really want to take this to trial? You know, try to beat this case, go home a free man, with no conviction?" And I was honest with them. I said, "I'm not trying to argue that I didn't do this. I'm just trying to argue that I didn't deserve 21 years for what I did." So he went to the prosecuting attorney and they worked out a deal for me to have time served. So he came back to me with the plea bargain for time served and I signed on the dotted line. And I was released.
Kofi Darku:Wow. What a story. And how did it feel when you got that news that that lawyer was able to make the deal for the time that you've already served?
David Gaspar:You know, it, it was very surreal. Yeah, it was one of those things that you know, you, you dream, you hope, you pray, you know, you do everything you can to, you know, make that day a reality. And when it finally comes, it just is so unbelievable that, now you have the thoughts of everything you said you wanted to accomplish, now actually very much presented to you. And you just have to now, just muster up the courage to go out there and make it happen. And I say courage because it's easy to dream. It's easy to fantasize. It's a whole nother thing to actually go out there and take the steps that are necessary in order for you to actually have the opportunity to succeed.
Kofi Darku:It's true. You put in this work, you, you accomplished a lot in prison by getting your GED, learning more about law then starting off this sequence that eventually leads to freedom or being returned to your life sooner than you probably anticipated, knowing you were working for it, but it's hard to believe that you're actually going to achieve. And then once you achieve, yeah, I would assume there's now, there's a lot of pressure and a lot of fulfillment of things you said you would do if God answered this prayer. So, so let's jump to you being out, and how do you approach stabilizing your life now that you are no longer incarcerated and, and I'm sure, employment, a job, factors in there. What focuses your search for a job and how you want to stabilize your life?
David Gaspar:You know, it was from the moment I stepped out of jail, it was different than anything I ever thought that I would experience. And what I mean by that, when I signed my plea bargain and they let me go, I signed with my plea bargain and I was released on December 5 of 2005. I didn't go back to court until January 27 of 2006 for sentencing. I didn't get an identification when I got released. I couldn't prove that I was who I was. The clothes that they released me in were their shower shoes, the orange flip flops that they give you in county jail, no socks, size 48 pants, no underwear, and a big oversized button up shirt. And it was December 5, and that's how they released me from jail. I was not allowed to even apply for food stamps or any type of assistance or a job until after January 27 when my identity was released. So it took me a while to really figure out my life. And what it did is it actually pushed me in a direction that I didn't really foresee me leaning on or requiring, upon my release. And that was going back to my friends. Now I'm close to my friends. I love my friends. They were very supportive throughout my entire incarceration.
Kofi Darku:They raised the money to get you the private attorney that made the difference.
David Gaspar:Huge, like a huge amount, of love and respect and appreciation, admiration of just the loyalty as friends. But they also generated the funds in a not-so-legal way, and their lifestyles were not, that which was going to be conducive to me moving down the path that I had chosen.
Kofi Darku:And you knew this right away when you got out?
David Gaspar:Absolutely. And there was really, you know, very few options for me, not having an identity.
Kofi Darku:I can't even think of any options.
David Gaspar:Yeah. Almost every social service, they need your name, your social security number, your ID, in order for them to get credit for servicing, so that they can continue to get more funds. So when you knock on their door and you tell them that "I can't," and then they say, "well, we'll help you fill out the paperwork." And I'm like, "well, actually it's not gonna help until I'm sentenced." Every door was shut in my face. So I ended up sleeping at one of my friend's son's mother's house, as a means of having a residence. You know, hugely grateful and thankful for her opening up her door to me. But to kind of skip ahead, you know, it's January 27 now, I'm sentenced, I'm able to get my identity back. I went and got some food stamps right away, in order just to kind of contribute back to the household that had been taking care of me, and I started applying for jobs and it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my entire life. I did apply at warehouses. I did apply, at manufacturers. I applied at fast food restaurants. I was actually hired at a company, for two weeks and then the owner pulled me in and apologized and said, "your background check came back and unfortunately I'm not going to be able to offer you full time employment." The most heartbreaking moment, my low, when it came to looking for jobs, was at Pizza Hut. I turned in my application to the three people behind the counter. And on the application, I had to disclose that I had a felony and I had to list what my felonies were. And even though this is now 2006, and you know, my crimes are committed in 1996, they laughed in my face. All three of them laughed in my face. They thought it was the funniest thing in the world that I would ever even think that I could work at Pizza Hut. And that was a hard moment for me. And, I remember, you know, I was with my wife, and, and I went home to her and I just wanted to cry. I couldn't, you know, like my eyes wouldn't water up, but I was just so frustrated. I was so hurt. I was just so in my head, you know, as to how could I not even be worth making a pizza? And so my wife told me she was, you know, she's always been a very stern supporter of me. She pretty much told me to quit crying about it. "Get up, go out there and find the job that's for you." I jumped on Craigslist and I found a warehouse opportunity and I called the number and I asked the guy and I was like, "you still hiring?" And he was like, "yeah, you wanna come in tomorrow morning for an interview?" And it was for a startup company and I went to interview, put on my finest jeans and t-shirt and walked in there, and he walked me into the warehouse area and he said, "can you do this?" All he did is point to some boxes. He didn't tell me what was in the boxes, what we do with the boxes, what like, he didn't tell me anything about the operation whatsoever, and I loved the guy. He was a great guy. And my immediate response is "definitely! Like, of course. I don't care what it is, I can do it." And he pretty much told me, he was like, "okay, you got the job. Start tomorrow." I never had to fill out an application.
David Gaspar:He never asked me about my background.
David Gaspar:And what he did for me in that moment, I don't think he'll ever realize. Cause to this day, he doesn't know that I had a criminal conviction on my record. But he not only opened up a life to me and to my family that I will forever be grateful for, but he also did that for countless other men and women that have felonies that I've been able to employ over the years.
Kofi Darku:That's phenomenal. Yeah, I could see that being a watershed moment, man. No, no application and no inquiry about your background. Quick, quick question. You kinda touched on it. Obviously he wasn't the best instructor in terms of trying to help you understand what the job entailed. How did you feel about that person who gave you that opportunity, and how did you feel about that company, and was that feeling a consistent feeling in terms of-- cause I'm assuming it was a positive feeling based on some of the negative things you experienced-- can you tell us about, because oftentimes I feel like when we talk about the variety of populations that are underserved and not getting the look that they could for the workforce, employers are missing an opportunity to create a bond of loyalty because, because of them being overlooked, once you give them a look, they will be very grateful to you. So now I've led you, but I wanted to see what, what did you feel about that person and that company once they gave you that chance?
David Gaspar:And actually you didn't lead me. You just gave me a great intro, to tell them my story. So the gentleman that hired me, I ended up actually superseding him in management a year later. So you're right, he wasn't the best leader on the floor. He was a great person. He had a great heart. And he taught me an extremely valuable lesson and that is not to judge people off of their past indiscretions, but to appreciate where they are in that moment. You got somebody in front of you that wants an opportunity, appreciate that they came to you for that opportunity and then value them for what their future potential is. And that's just good business overall. Don't judge, appreciate, and value, and you'll have an awesome employee. What that company did for me and, what that gentleman did for me, is they offered me the opportunity to put all of that determination, all of that hard work that I had already done in my mind as to what I wanted to accomplish, they gave me the setting, they gave me the opportunity to make that a reality. And that startup company, in my first year with them, they hit their first million dollars. When I left, and transitioned at the beginning of this year, they were a $70 million company. I had the opportunity, to not only grow with the company, but become the director of the distributions of operations, build out nine different departments, eight managers, 12 leads, 174 employees. There was an opportunity there that I didn't just take advantage of for myself, but I worked hard. I worked diligently for their success because they couldn't fail, because if they failed, that would put me back in a situation of need, that would put me back in a situation of having to beg somebody for another opportunity. So I wasn't gonna allow them to fail. I wasn't going to allow me to have to be back out there to try to feed my family and struggle just to get by and pay my next bill. That company wasn't going to fail as long as I was on their staff.
Kofi Darku:Yeah, I hear that. Wow, that's really insightful. In terms of, you are determined for that company to succeed because that company is directly tied to you, and you see that as your only ship right now. So, "Ship, you're going to stay sailing, you will sail." Oh wow. So beyond getting that employment, securing that employment, feeling good about the employer, what other aspirations did you start to have or what aspirations do you remember from that time in your life that you can share with our audience?
David Gaspar:You know, it was right away. The company I worked for, they weren't necessarily felon-friendly. They just didn't have any processes for screening felons at that moment in time. And so when I got in behind the curtain, so to speak, I even to the day I left, I never disclosed that I had a felony, which benefited, everybody else around me. And, I'll go into detail about that. I actually asked for us to have a felon program where we are allowed to hire people that are criminally, are justice-involved. And what that did is it allowed me to hire individuals that I could mentor, and I could coach, and I could harness the powers that they brought to the company. And over time we've maintained a 35% criminally, um, sorry, justice-involved, labor pool within the warehouse. And out of that labor pool we had individuals that moved into corporate. I had three individuals that moved into corporate, had two individuals in the warehouse that met operations level, had other ones that achieved management and supervisory positions as well as lead positions. These are all individuals that had some type of criminal history, be it with drugs, be it with violence, be it with, whatever the issues are or challenges that they had in the past. And once again, just maintaining that model. "I'm not here with a black robe to judge you for what you did in the past. I'm here to appreciate that you want this opportunity now, and to find the value in what you have to offer to the future."
Kofi Darku:So you, you pretty much just created this role and you took it upon yourself to do this for your company, which I think probably helped contribute to that 1 million in that first year to 70 million several years down the road because they're now expanded to having a workforce that they probably weren't cognizant of that they could have. But you are formalizing a way to receive such a workforce and probably even attracting such a workforce.
David Gaspar:Attracting, and then, you know, taking it a step farther and blending a workforce. Because when you have individuals that are justice-involved, they come from different cultures, different backgrounds. When you have those who are not justice-involved, they come from their own backgrounds and educational accomplishments. And so you have to marry the two together and you have to show that there's value in both of them. And when you can find that value and actually get the team to appreciate the differences, that's when you can really generate success.
Kofi Darku:All right. David, let's dig into the fact that you never had to disclose your background to your former employer. However, you were building a path for people with backgrounds to come in. How were you able to pull that off without disclosing it? And then also how were you able to successfully mentor without them discovering that this was also your background?
David Gaspar:Right. Great question. So I had a friend that I knew prior to being incarcerated, and I was also, at one point in time, we were incarcerated at the same institution. And you know, we really had this vision for how not only we wanted to get on our feet, but how we wanted to open up the door for other people as well. While we were incarcerated, we were helping other people, you know, with their education, with their legal work, whatever that looked like. So when I got out and he knew I had this position in the warehouse, he had a really good friend that had become incarcerated that I hadn't met before. And he brought them to my attention. He was like, "Hey, I really need you to help this guy. Like he is somebody that I would swear, stand by, you know, night or day." So I actually went to meet him in person at his mother's house. That's where he had got paroled to. And our first meeting was over a meal that his aunt had cooked and we're sitting there eating. And the guy's telling me, he's like, "man, I just need job for six months. I just need to be able to get my probation officer off my back and you know, and I'll find something else. Don't worry about it. Like I'll, I'll figure that out as long as you give me a job for six months." And so I told him, I was like, "I'm going to go and I'm going to fight for this. I said, but you have to give me your word and your commitment that while you're there, you're going to represent me to the fullest because you'll be the first person that I get to open the door with." And he had a simple drug possession case, so he didn't have anything else, you know, very wild or dangerous or scary. He didn't have a theft. He didn't, you know, like all of these things that I knew the owners were not going to be favorable towards. So I went and I made my proposition to be able to hire this individual and bring them on board. And it took about a week or so to have a conversation. There was three partners, so I had to talk to all three of them separately and then collectively to make sure that everybody was okay with it. And they signed off on it.
David Gaspar:When that young man started with me his first three months, he was a solid worker. He didn't, you know, there, there was nothing superstar-ish about him, there was nothing bad about him. He was very polite, very respectful, hard worker. But he really didn't go above and beyond. He wasn't really seeing, you know, once again, he said he only planned on being there for six months. He was going to do enough to honor his word and that was it. But after that 90-day mark, you know, I had really got to know him on a different level and see his potential. So I approached him and I asked him, I was like, "what are your plans? You know, you say you only gonna be here for six months. You been-- half the time is gone. What are you gonna?" You know, he's like, "I mean, I haven't really thought about it, you know, I'm just, I'm keeping my eye open." And I was like, "you know, vision without action just means that you're looking around. Nothing will ever come to you." And so we just kept talking and we kept talking. We got closer and closer and I just pointed out, I was like, "man, if you take what you have, that you're keeping to yourself and you share that with other people, you'd be a superstar." And that young man turned it on. He made the commitment. He was like, "you know what, since I'm here, let me make the most of it." And I just kept pushing and driving and pointed out opportunities and just talking to them when you become frustrated and just really try to help them navigate everything that was going on, in employment as well as his personal life. Cause he has some things going on there with his daughter's mother and other things and, you know, just basically just being a friend. And through connecting with him, he ended up actually being the man that took my role. He's the one who actually superseded me. He's the one who moved up in every way possible. And then after I left the company, he moved into, the actual corporation, the corporate office. So he moved his way all the way up the ladder, but with his help, he knew that they didn't know about my history. So everybody now that we pushed through, I used him as the example. He used his powers and ability as an example. And we just kept adding pieces to it and we just kept adding pieces to it. And really what we did is we didn't tell people, "here is your formula for how you're going to succeed." We pointed out, "here's what I see in you. Here's the power that you hold." Once again, this company grew from, you know, the 1 million to $70 million, but it wasn't all David's genius and power and ability. It wasn't all of his genius and power and ability. It was our ability to tap into what other people brought to the table, see things from their perspective, hear their feedback, get their genius ideas into an action plan. And we were able to execute on that strategy over and over again. And that's what helped us develop that program.
Kofi Darku:Well explained. I really appreciate that. That was some great insight. So this story has, has given us a lot and within your own story, as you had the friends who put the money together for the attorney, it's not quite bail money, but it does make me think of the company you work for now, The Bail Project. Can you explain for our audience what, what are some of the basic goals of The Bail Project and generally what is The Bail Project?
David Gaspar:In a nutshell, The Bail Project pays the cash bail for individuals that cannot afford to do so themselves so that we can minimize the harm and the consequences of somebody being incarcerated, while restoring their constitutional right to be free until proven guilty. So, some of the collateral harm that comes along with being incarcerated, not just the strain and the stress that you know, I described earlier and how that impacts people and their health. But also if you're in jail and you miss work two consecutive days, it could cost you your employment. If you are in jail for three to five days, you can lose your children. If you're in jail for one to two weeks, that could cost you your housing. Now you can't afford to pay your bail, and the bails that we're paying, they're not $500,000 bails. We're talking about $250 bails, $500 bails, $1,000 bails. These are things that the average person in our society and our community could rally up the money and they could pay their bonds and they can be free without any real harm to their lifestyle or any loss to what they have achieved up to that point. But when you're talking about people of poverty, $500 is the difference between "does my family pay the rent this month or do they get me out of jail? Does my family have to sacrifice food and potential bills or do they get me out of jail?" So what we want to do as an organization is to end the cash bail model that is criminalizing poverty.
Kofi Darku:That's good. So you are the regional operations manager of The Bail Project. I assume that when you say... Wow, we just know that incarceration is rampant through our country. So I'm thinking we have, you have a lot of sites that you are dealing with throughout the country. Can you list the sites that you work with throughout the country?
David Gaspar:Yeah, so I directly manage five sites. That's Indianapolis, Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky.
Kofi Darku:Okay. So you, you're pretty much Midwest. And when you say you manage, can you give us some, some color or describe a little bit more what does managing those five sites mean?
David Gaspar:Right, absolutely. So, two of the sites have site managers, so the site managers are responsible for the day-to-day activities, the community networking, but the other three sites that don't have managers, I act as that site manager as well as an operations level as to articulating with the central office what our needs are here in the Midwest, articulating our staffing needs, making sure that we're actually making the connections in the community that are necessary for us to move, our, our cause forward. So a lot of it really pertains to being in the community, networking with the agencies, the community agencies, advocacy, supporters, you know, networking with jail officials, public defenders, prosecutors, counseling men and women, judges. Really trying to get everybody to see this as a, an issue that we need to collectively resolve. It's not going to be one person or one agency that's going to be able to resolve the issue. The issue really lies in how are we addressing the poverty and the subsequent issues that poverty produces? So when we're getting individuals out of jail by paying their bail, we're also connecting them to community resources that are helping them stabilize and to be able to move forward. We're offering them court reminders. We're offering transportation to court and, and back home or back to their place of employment. So collectively, what I do is I work with my teams on the ground to make sure that we're constantly moving that needle forward. We want to bail people out, but we also want to make sure that when that person is bailed out of jail that they have an actual opportunity to succeed.
Kofi Darku:Yeah, I wanted to dig into what type of advocacy is out there but you just explained it all. And we understand that the basic goal here is to not let poverty be the reason that someone stays in, an incarceration situation that's going to negatively impact other things in their life if it can be helped. So The Bail Project is really trying to take away the criminalization of poverty and trying to just not let that be the case anymore. So this is really helpful. David, it's been great having you on. I want to make sure that if our audience has any questions, they can get in touch with you. How would people get in contact with you if they wanted to learn more about The Bail Project?
David Gaspar:Oh, they can very easily go on the Internet, TheBailProject.org. They will be able to look up any sites, there'll be able to look up every employee that works for the agency, all of our contact information is there. There's also a "need help." So if people have questions about their particular jurisdiction or county and if we will be able to help there, they can also reach out to us through there as well.
Kofi Darku:And you mentioned stabilization in terms of what you want for individuals that you're helping, and community-based resources. Is there anything specifically you do in regards to employment for those individuals?
David Gaspar:Absolutely. Great question. Employment is the number one need of almost every one of our clients. So most people, even if we get them out three, four days later, they've already lost their employment or it's on the, the, they're on the brink of losing that employment. So we are constantly looking for opportunities. I am constantly networking with agencies like Morales and employers and I'm going to SHRM conference to talk to HR and, workers to try to just spread the word that there's greatness waiting to be tapped into. But once again, we have to want it. We have to look for it and we have to value it when it's there in front of us. There are two mindsets. You have the mindset of those who are justice-involved. And that is where power and respect are intertwined. And there's a training process for helping them unlatch the two. That way they can understand that your manager's not disrespecting you by exercising what their authority is in their role. But then there's also a mindset on behalf of management sometimes. And that is, "I was educated to know what to do." And it's not the education that's always coming up that comes across as negative. It's them being locked into the educational process. "You have to be able to learn this way or else you can't get this." And you have to go back to an individual like myself who hasn't been in high school since 15 years old. I don't learn like everybody else learns. I see things differently and I catch on by watching and doing myself. And when management can tap into the learning style of their employees that they're hiring, that's when they really can tap into their greatness. So I tried to go around and spread that word and kind of help individuals understand how to let go of their personal biases that they may or may not even know exist within themselves.
Kofi Darku:Well, I'm so glad that we had you on the show. It's very important for us to help our audience understand the, the great wealth of potential that's available with our justice-involved and second chance populations. So David, thank you for being on this episode of Skill Up Build Up podcast and maybe it still is the best coast. You know, we're going to have some East-Coasters in here to make sure we got this evenly represented. Thanks.
Kofi Darku:Another deep episode. A lot of things to learn. And my first takeaway is despite the many obstacles and barriers David faced throughout his childhood, his teenage years and early adulthood, those obstacles and what he went through, they did not define him. They do not define the man that was just on this episode. I mean similar to that employer that gave him a chance. No one really knew that he had a background. And I did not know when I met him over a year ago that he did. It was, it was many, many months later that I was like, wow. Hmm. And so this is a lesson that I hope others can take away too because there are many people that go through difficult upbringings and have many barriers to face that they don't get through them easily, but they, they aren't defined by them and that doesn't define who they are and you know what? They end up being pretty great people and they could be a great employee. So it's a very good lesson to learn. Also, this is a great opportunity for employers. For my second takeaway, employment is the number one need for individuals going through The Bail Project. If you quickly learn what the situation is with them and you can meet them where they are, understand that this person in this moment has some, some potential and is a valuable employee, chances are there could be a connection in terms of some, some things you need done for you as an employer. So employment is their number one need. There's gotta be opportunities with that. And it was very interesting for me that David helped usher in what ended up being a significant part of his employer's workforce. 35% of those individuals coming in were justice-involved. And we're doing a great job through mentoring and making sure that people were evaluating their potential and helping them apply themselves accordingly. Again, we're just trying to help others understand that there's significant options out there if you want to tap into other pools of labor talent. Again, check us out wherever you get your podcasts. Skill Up Build Up podcast is here to continue this conversation. We look forward to you listening soon.