Kazen honored with new facility to help offenders after release

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Offenders after release may no longer be alone, as they may have a new “light” waiting for them to get back on their feet or begin a new beginning.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for Be The Light: The Honorable George P. Kazen Empowerment Center was held Wednesday afternoon at the Laredo Federal Courthouse with a host of city and county dignitaries, including Mayor Pete Saenz , Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina, Dr. Ricardo Cigarroa and others.

The installation – located inside the Laredo Federal Courthouse located at 1300 Victoria Street – honors the late U.S. District Judge who served nearly 40 years in the Laredo community. The facility will provide recently released inmates with a place where they can find a job or prepare for an interview.

United States District Court Judge Diana Saldana, who worked with Kazen during his tenure, gave the facility’s commencement address and said how it serves to remember his legacy.


The facility will offer post-release offenders the unique experience of obtaining the necessary clothing for a job interview, seeing where they are hiring in the community, and helping them start afresh.

“We are really excited to be part of Laredo,” Saldana said. “I think Laredo is a very special community because I love it so much, and we have so much to offer.

“I think people who come to Laredo from out of town and make their home here realize the love and warmth of this community. So I’m thrilled that we’re entering into this partnership with our other agencies in the community to achieve this goal of trying to help and empower people who need help.”

Saldana states that for her personally, Kazen was her light. He helped show her the way to get where she is while setting the tone in such an important profession on how to treat others with respect and dignity.

“He was the light to me showing me through his actions how he valued every human being he came in contact with, whether here in the courthouse or in the community. He really taught me this through his actions,” Saldana said. “I still remember the day he called me, and he said he was going to take me on as a liaison judge for Laredo. I think that’s where he passed the baton if you will. , as the light had already been given to me from the moment I met him, I think he knew that I was going to continue the work.

Kazen’s family, which includes his two sons and daughter, were also present at the event and shared what they believe the facility means to them and their father’s legacy.

“The family is extremely proud and I’m glad the justice system has dedicated this to their memory,” said George Kazen, the eldest sibling. “It’s something Dad believed in strongly and it was something he had a strong passion for – him and my mum, because my mum ran the Bethany House program here in Laredo. Dad was also concerned about the direction lives after they have done their duty to society and have always believed they should be given the chance for a fresh start when they come out.”

Kazen said he thought the new facility was an ideal way to establish his legacy. He thinks he would be extremely proud, even though he knew his father – a humble man – would not have been eager to see a building named after him.

“Everyone talks about how he guided and taught and loved, but from a family perspective it was that and more,” said George Kazen. “He was always the mentor of the family, always giving advice and direction, always showing us the right path and guiding us. Each of us testifies to his accomplishments.”

Kazen’s only daughter, Elizabeth, was also present at the ceremony. She said he was her best mentor and always treated her the same as her siblings. She credited her father’s teachings for everything she accomplished.

“I’m very proud of my father’s legacy and I’m very happy that Judge Saldana took the time and effort to continue his light and that was his goal,” Elizabeth Kazen said. “He was everything to me. I believe he was not just my light but rather everyone’s light, as he showed through his actions the way he thought I should be. I admire him for the way he was and everything he did, and I just aspire to be like him.”

Saldana said she was glad the late judge’s family came to the event to see the installation and how much he is remembered, even a year after his death.

“I’m honored to have the family here,” Saldana said. “I am honored to work with Magistrate Judge Kazen, as his father has truly been my mentor, the greatest inspiration of my professional life.”

Saldana says the opening of the facility now leads to the next phase, which is to work with the various agencies and partner groups they have in the community to connect people who need these services.

“We’re going to partner with different community agencies so we can provide services to offenders after they’re released for resume writing, job training, giving them access and knowing who’s hiring, and giving them the clothes they can feel confident about.” dress them for success, like work shoes or whatever they need to succeed when they enter the workforce,” Saldana said.

According to the district judge, the facility and court will also soon install computers in an effort to help released offenders with anything they need to find employment or any other resources. However, many of the facilities they will be working with will be outside of the court, as they plan to partner with local agencies and organizations to bring together all the resources that post-release offenders might need in one area.

She says partnering with partners who already have the computer labs and other things needed is one way to bridge the gap between these organizations in an effort to get them to work together.

All of the services that the new facility will provide to post-release offenders are free.

During the ceremony, Tijerina spoke in several words about why he believed Kazen to be a remarkable man and how his light will help those struggling for a fresh and better start to be accomplished through the installation. And Cigarroa also remembered the late judge for all the times he saw him talking to his father in their home and how he was also someone who taught him about life and the importance of freedom and justice. justice.

As the Be The Light: The Honorable George P. Kazen Empowerment Center opens its doors, Saldana said it’s just the beginning, as she has plans for the center to grow much larger in and around the community. .

“Right now we’re going to be focusing on our offenders after they’re released, but the goal is to really reach out to our community and go out and do some outreach to make sure anyone who needs these types resources can get them,” says Saldana. “Then if we’re able to connect them with the different partners, we’ll do that, but that’s another aspect of that, which is really kind of reaching out and being that light in the community to make sure we don’t have people in the criminal justice system. That would be the goal.

Saldana says those interested in getting help from the new facility can do so by visiting the Laredo Federal Courthouse, going to its website and looking for contact information, or calling the Federal Probation Service in federal courthouse.

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