Program turns ex-cons into entrepreneurs

Beneficiaries of a Brooklyn program for ex-convicts are avoiding job market scrutiny by going into business for themselves.



Former inmates like Ralphy Dominguez, of the Bronx, say they have trouble finding work after leaving prison.



In the Refoundry program, ex-convicts learn to turn the skills they aquired in prison into business opportunities. The program then helps incubate the businesses and source raw materials.



Dominguez now operates his own leather company, Pen and Pistol, and he says he's paying it forward by hiring others who are having trouble finding jobs.



"They would be back on the street hustling, and other illegal things," Dominguez says. "I'm reaching out to my own brothers."



Pen and Pistol offers hand-sewn wallets, purses and other accessories that are all crafted in Dominguez's South Bronx apartment. Refoundry also assists by matching Dominguez with wholesalers that have extra stock.



The merchandise is available at local flea markets and online, but Dominguez says he hopes to reach retail shelves one day.


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