Ex-offenders weigh in, on what works to get back on track after prison

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) —  Statistics show nearly half of the adults released from prison in 2009, to live in Marion County, offended again.

That’s according to the latest numbers from the Department of Correction.

But numbers overall in the state of Indiana, show the recidivism rate of adults is down since 2005.

“We can never, ever escape our past. It’s always going to be there. But we can overcome it, and we can move on,” said Mark Barmes.

Barmes says after getting involved with drugs at an early age, he says he later served time for forgery and burglary.

It was at the beginning of his third stint in prison, he says he decided he wanted to make a change.

“Both of those first two bits, my whole focus was on getting out of prison. None of it was on staying out of prison,” said Barmes.

“My biggest problem besides myself, I wanted to blame everybody else and not take advice. I wanted to tell you what to do, but I wasn’t willing to listen.”

Barmes says it was that third time, he wanted that change. He says he spent that three years networking with people outside, working toward getting out and being prepared.

“I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the way I started living the program,” Barmes said. “When I got out of prison, I was fully prepared.”

It was a similar situation for Davinci Richardson.

He says he spent about twelve years during four stints in prison.

It was that fourth time – there came that moment. Richardson remembers the day.

“December 10, 2007. That was my moment for me,” Richardson remembered. He says he’d led police on a chase; K-9 units were out. “I just knew the rest of my life not going to be spent like this. I had to do something; I had to make a change.”

They both say the process of re-entry – starts the first day you get in.

“Re-entry begins the first day you’re in prison. There are programs they can use to build a better life for themselves,” said Barmes.

The Indianapolis’ Mayor’s Office of Ex-Offender Re-entry put out a video in January called ‘First Day in Re-entry.’

Offenders see the video the first day they’re in prison. Barmes is in it.

So far, more than 6,000 inmates have seen it.

Damon Lane, with the Office of Re-entry, says they’ve also put together a database in the last six months to keep track of offenders, and what services they’ve received.

They’re also working to start a mentoring program that focuses on providing help for those with mental illness or substance abuse.

“They may be diagnosed with something while they’re incarcerated, and get treatment while incarcerated, but unfortunately, when they come home, if there’s nothing there, the treatment stops,” said Damon Lane, who works in the Mayor’s Office of Re-entry. “We’re trying to create a collaborative effort of organizations to be able to assist these individuals once they’re released.”

Lane has a unique perspective. He says he’s a ‘billboard’ to show anyone who is currently incarcerated, where they can get in life if they want it. He says he was sentenced to ten years when he was 19.

Ever since, he’s been passionate about re-entry and helping others get back on their feet.

“My role in this whole piece of re-entry is personal. I really know what it takes. I’m a living testimony to what you have to do: you have to want it,” Lane said. “I want to see people successful. I’m a billboard to say that, for anyone that doesn’t believe it can happen, it can.”

Those who’ve been there, say they’re now working to mentor others, one by one, letting them know, this doesn’t have to be it.

“Sometimes people think it’s not worth it, but my story is, that it is worth it,” said Barmes. “Today, I feel like I’m a success.”

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