RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -
A former Virginia prisoner got the picture identification he needs to support himself and live a successful, crime-free life outside the penitentiary.
Willie Jones says his life was in limbo before he got help from 12 On Your Side. He couldn't get a job or anything without a government-issued photo ID. Those documents were needed to prove his legal presence in the United States. He says soon he hopes to be earning a living driving trucks. He has left Virginia and moved to Maryland because that's where his daughter and family support are.
That picture ID creates opportunities for a second chance. Though in Maryland now, Jones wanted to show he got the important DMV photo ID card, a process that began two months ago in Virginia.
"I used to watch you on TV all the time and I knew that you were in a position to help me and you're willing to help me," Jones said. "I called you and you called me back and here you go."
Jones was a serial armed robber. When his elusive streak ran out and he went to prison when he was 20. Recently paroled after 36 years, Jones says he had skills but he couldn't get a job because he didn't have a government issued ID.
"I was the head cook while I was in prison for decades. I worked in the milk plant, took janitorial classes. I got my forklift license," he said. "when I got out, I couldn't put nothing to use."
Jones was born in Germany but is a U.S. citizen because his American soldier father married a German woman. Both parents died while he was in prison and all his vital documents got lost. Virginia Department of Corrections paperwork wasn't enough to get anything to prove he was legally in this country. It took some time but now Jones has every document he needs to prove his citizenship. The Virginia DMV, and Goodwill Industries were dedicated to helping him.
"Men and women who return to society do change. I'm a person who was incarcerated and been pardoned by the governor," said Hasan Zarif, Re-Entry Specialist at Goodwill Industries. "I just want to b e a part of Mr. Jones's support system here at Goodwill because that's what we do."
Jones said he passed the vision and written part of the driver's test and hopes to have his Maryland driver's license soon. "I've done my time. I made a mistake. I learned from it and I'm trying to regroup my life," he said.
Jones was finally able to get his father's military records and that got things moving. DMV has a special documents review committee that looks into challenging cases like this one. In the mean time, Jones has connected with support organizations in Maryland and is doing well.