Derek had recently been released from juvenile hall in San Francisco, after serving time for robbery—a robbery in which his friend Benjamin had refused to participate. Benjamin convinced Derek to go with him to apply for a construction training program that would help them get “real jobs” and end their involvement in gangs and crime.

I was the director of the training program, and we had only one open slot. Like most social services, my program prioritized the “most in need,” so Derek got that...

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