When Kirn Kim was 16, he was part of a group of five teens who killed an honors student who attended their high school in Fullerton, California. Kim had been along for a ride with a pal who was known for his big talk and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison for having been a lookout in the murder.
Today, 23 years later, Kim is one of an emerging class of individuals – the formerly incarcerated – who are struggling to make a life for themselves after they've paid their debt to society.
"What happened was a tragedy," Kim told me. "But I was determined to make the best of a bad situation and be that one exception, if I ever managed to get out of prison."
To that end, Kim used his time behind bars to earn a bachelor's degree in business and became active in rehabilitative programs where he could counsel and help struggling inmates. After 20 years and two tries, Kim was finally granted parole.
He moved back home with his parents and, taking back up with a childhood love of computers, delved into coding and computer programming courses at a local college.
But he hit a brick wall when it was time to find work.