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Hope for Prisoners getting new home with gift from Bill Walters

Updated February 18, 2022 - 8:44 pm

A Las Vegas nonprofit that assists formerly incarcerated people with re-entry into society will soon have a new home.

Hope for Prisoners announced Friday that it will be opening the Billy Walters Center for Second Chances, 333 N. Rancho Drive, in April, after receiving a “substantial gift” from Bill and Susan Walters.

The announcement came during the nonprofit’s monthly re-entry graduation ceremony at Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. Twenty-eight graduates received certificates and praise after completing the 18-month program.

Bill Walters, once considered one of the most successful sports bettors in the country, said during the ceremony that his time in prison motivated him to give back to those who have been incarcerated.

Walters was released from federal prison in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 after serving 2½ years of his five-year sentence, which was handed down in July 2017 and included a $10 million fine.

He was found guilty of masterminding a six-year insider trading scheme with former Dean Foods Co. Chairman Tom Davis.

Prosecutors said Walters made more than $40 million illegally trading the stock of Dallas-based Dean Foods after giving Davis a prepaid throwaway phone so they could discuss inside information without being traced.

Then-President Donald Trump pardoned Walters on his final day in office.

Program a ‘model’ for U.S.

Walters said he mentored two dozen men while in federal prison in Florida. While all of them said they did not want to return to prison, many most probably would because of the lack of support and opportunity, Walters said.

“This truly should be — and in a perfect world would be — the model for the rest of the United States of America,” Walters said after the ceremony. “It’s an incredible program.”

Hope for Prisoners helps people with re-entry through long-term support and services. It graduates more than 450 people per year. The nonprofit works with Metro, the College of Southern Nevada, The Vegas Chamber, Workforce Connections, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and hundreds of volunteers, according to a press release.

Hope for Prisoners President and CEO Jon Ponder said 74 percent of those who have come through the program have obtained a full-time job after graduation.

The new location will offer in-house vocational training; higher education opportunities; substance abuse and mental health counseling; access to parole and probation officers; a family reunification center, and Department of Motor Vehicles and Social Security resources, Ponder said.

“All those things are going to be there that don’t exist in prison,” Walters said. “But more importantly, as John and those people talked about, there’s going to be support mechanism for their families, and you have to have that.”

Graduates plan for future

Graduates wearing blue caps and gowns were applauded as they walked into the ceremony. They sat in the middle of a room surrounded by family, friends, police officers and local leaders.

Two people shared their “vivid vision,” an essay that asks each graduate to describe what they will be doing on the day one year from Friday’s ceremony. A copy of the essay will be given to the graduate, and another copy will go to a mentor who will work with them to make the vision a reality.

Cedric Hasan, 31, who lives at Casa Grande Transitional Housing Center, said Ponder’s promise for a better future during orientation inspired him in to keep going.

“My long-term goals are to establish a career, reconnect with my family — basically just be the best version of myself and keep building myself,” Hasan said. “I’m not perfect, but I’m always going to work on myself and remain a law-abiding citizen.

“It meant a lot to me because it shows that I have more support than what I thought. I basically know I’m not alone.”

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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