New re-entry program helping inmates prepare for life outside of jail

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Marion County inmates on the verge of being released are getting help restarting their lives.

It’s thanks to a new, grant-funded program designed to give them a better shot at re-entering the working world.

When you feel like you need to start over, it can be helpful to get a head start.

“I feel this is it, this is it for me getting in trouble,” said Marion County Jail inmate Tyrone Anderson. “The cycle got to end right here.”

He said that as he sat in a room with three other inmates. They are the first of 100 to participate in a program that will prepare them for life after their sentence is up.

“From day one it seems like they put their arms around me and that’s what I needed,” said Anderson.

The program was coordinated by EmployIndy thanks to a $500,000 Department of Labor grant. The initiative will help with job training, resume building, interview techniques and much more.

“I done tried many-a-times to get a job and got refused, didn’t know really what to say on my applications,” said Anderson.

Those services aren’t necessarily new, but the fact that he’s getting them while in jail is what makes the program different. According to EmployIndy, an ex-offender has a 63 percent chance of landing back in jail if he or she is unemployed.

“If you’re not able to provide those wraparound support services immediately upon release or even pre-release if possible, the likelihood that they are going to recidivate and they’re going to go back to prison or jail is greater,” said April Angermeier, a consultant with Community Solutions, one of the organizations helping with the program. “A lot of people who are unsuccessful in re-entry tend to be unsuccessful in the first six to 12 months after release.”

That’s why rather than wait until inmates are released, the program jump starts the re-entry process for inmates who have six months or less on their sentence.

The program is voluntary, however, inmates must pass an interview process. They also have to be serving a sentence in the jail, not awaiting trial.

Participants set their own goals, allowing them to focus on finding work or going back to school.

“The thing about re-entry is that there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach, so a lot of the programs that are focused on re-entry are about trying to meet people where they are,” added Angermeier.

“They’re willing to give themselves to see to their own success, to do the work that they need to do to make sure that they end up with a sustainable and great future as soon as they’re done with their time here,” said Brian Van Bokkelen, EmployIndy.

Anderson’s time will be up May 4. He said he wants to become a landscaper and eventually run his own business.

“I’m ready to get out of here and get my life started. I’m ready for that,” he said confidently.

Once inmates are released the program doesn’t end for them. They will continue to get the same services to keep them on track to getting a job, finding housing and starting their education.

Angermeier said they’re treating this first attempt at the program like a pilot. She said they’ll analyze the results, see if it had an impact and potentially put together a plan to keep it going and make it grow.

David Hampton, Indianapolis Deputy Mayor of Neighborhood Engagement, is proud of the new initiative.

“The program positions the inmates to maximize their job potential. If they can get the training before they’re released, they’re ready to hit the ground running once they’re released,” he said. “I think the community needs to be aware that many inmates who have done their time, serve their sentence, are ready to be a productive citizen and I would encourage family members who will hear about this program to encourage their loved, get involved, get involved now so that upon release they can reintegrate back into society hopefully with gainful employment.”

Van Bokkelen added that the same services the inmates are receiving in jail are currently being offered to the public at EmployIndy’s WorkOne locations across the city.

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