|Updated: 8/05/2012 11:27 am
||Published: 8/05/2012 11:22 am
LITTLE ROCK, AR - New sidewalks have been popping up all over Little Rock since early July and that's because of a new city program, called the Sidewalk Project. The Sidewalk Project teaches convicted felons a new skill -- then puts them to work.
The men aren't just laying the foundation for a new sidewalk, they're laying the foundation for new lives.
Convicted armed robber Robert Battles hasn't had a job in the four-plus years since getting out of prison.
"I went to prison when I was about 17 years old," Battles says.
Like a lot of these guys -- he's had interviews -- but no one wants to hire a felon.
It’s the same story for Billy Harrison; he's been convicted of drug charges and breaking and entering.
"I’m a three time felon,” he says. “I have no other option besides this program."
The Sidewalk Project is run by the city of Little Rock. Basically, the city teaches ex-cons how to lay sidewalks and puts them to work immediately.
The workers get about $8 per hour and much-needed work experience. The city gets new sidewalks, like the one near the corner of 19th and MLK Drive that's still a day away from completion.
"This right here is gonna help me open up my future into say opening up my own contracting company and all that other,” Harrison says. “Which I planned to go to school for and I’m trying to go to school for."
City leaders say as long as the new employees keep working hard, they'll keep getting opportunities -- and that's all Harrison or Battles can ask for.
"It makes me feel good,” Battles says. “It’s a second chance, because you know I’ve got three kids, and it really make you feel like a man. Like you can help provide your household and help pay rent and it's honest money, so a paycheck is always good."
City leaders say the sidewalk project program could be expanded in the future to other city departments. That could include the parks and rec department where workers would learn how to landscape golf courses. It could also include the fleet department where workers would learn vehicle maintenance.