Economy Environment Gangs

Gangsters & Solar Panels: The Greening of Gang Intervention

On Valentine’s Day, one of the main articles on the cover the Wall Street Journal
was an article about Homeboy Industries’ new jobs program that trains parolees and former gang members for careers installing solar panels.

It’s a great program and terrific story to read. Here’s how it begins.

(Note: Since the WSJ hides itself behind a subscriber only fire wall, I’ve also linked to another site that has the story.)

When Albert Ortega was released from prison four months ago, he was determined to turn his life around. So he went green.

Mr. Ortega sports tattoos of an Aztec warrior on his back, a dragon on his chest and the name of his former gang, the East Side Wilmas, rings his biceps. Drug trafficking kept him locked up for most of the past seven years, he says. But after serving his last term, for 18 months, he heard about a solar-panel installation course.

“I wanted a new way of life,” says the tall, brawny 34-year-old. “Solar puts me on the cutting edge.”

In the race to train America’s “green-collar” work force, a group composed mostly of former Los Angeles gang members on parole is an early participant. Their training is funded by Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps people with criminal pasts find employment.

President Barack Obama has made the production of renewable energy one of the pillars of job creation. All sorts of people are now rushing to acquire skills to launch careers in the budding sector.

For years, Homeboy Industries put former felons to work at a bakery and cafe it runs in East Los Angeles. Last summer, founder Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest, was approached by a supporter about the idea of preparing them for the green economy.

Read the rest.

Then, after you read it, answer one question for me: If our mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, is loudly committing himself to gang prevention and intervention programs, and also noisily backing Proposition B, the so-called Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles Act, then why doesn’t he combine the two urges and provide Homeboy’s solar program with some kind of nominal support—and then take credit for their success—instead of throwing whatever city money the mayor’s office controls at less proven and/or effective gang intervention programs. (More on this in the coming weeks.)

I’m just curious.


  • Someone near us put solar cells all over their roof for the “green energy.” The payback period is something like fifty years. Really smart.

  • Wow… a liberal dream: rehabilitation and it’s “green.”

    OTOH, if it works, go with it. But will it work? What’s the demand for photovoltaic installers? …with felony records and gang tats?

  • Interestingly, construction and film production are the two industries where no one seems to care about the tats. And if you’ve managed to make it into a union, they stop caring about the felony record. Plus, in construction, at the end of the day you’ve got something real and physical to show for your time, which is satisfying for anyone, and particularly for these guys. It’s a very cool program.

  • I agree on construction. If it is after-market adding of solar panels, tats would be an issue.

    Unfortunately, at the moment the construction industry is dead. I just wonder if solar panels, of all things, are the best focus for these guys. I suppose in our brave new world where the government subsidizes all jobs, it makes sense, since solar panels will be installed whether it makes sense or not (and, except for isolated places, solar panels are a really poor way to get energy right now).

  • Why don’t the idiots who run Homeboy Industries check with the sage wingnut commenters here before they train and find jobs for gang members ? What kind of crazy, upside down world are we living in ? Because somebody here knows somebody who lives down the street and…ahhhh….forget about it. There’s no respect for expertise or real-life experience anymore. Probably has something to do with Obama’s election. Time to clean our guns.

  • “I suppose in our brave new world where the government subsidizes all jobs, it makes sense, since solar panels will be.”

    It’ll beat the hell out of a Govt that subsidizes Failed Banks, International Finance, and War Profiteers with no bid contracts in their vest pockets.

  • reg says nothing about anecdotes to illustrate points when Celeste uses them all of the time, but he has a fit when a conservative does so on the same site. Psycho.

    To make it plain and simple for the simple-minded and non-college educated, solar cells and wind turbins as regular energy sources are not cost justifiable. Solar panels ‘take 100 years to pay back installation costs’

    My guns are clean…if I really had any…in case the government wanted to take them from me…but I don’t have them.

  • This is total bullshit – solar technology isn’t static, and recent developments are bringing costs down dramatically.

    Woody – you’re polluting this blog with your inane presence. You’re a childish narcissist – a pathetic little runt desperate for attention. Even your kid thinks you’re nuts.

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