INDIANAPOLIS - Officials call it a blueprint for keeping Indianapolis safe and keeping ex-offenders out of prison.
It's known as the Re-Entry Plan: a guide for helping newly released inmates find their way through employment, housing and mental health issues.
In the past six months, more than 11,000 inmates new to the Marion County Hail and Department of Corrections have seen a video titled "First Day In." It's intended to plant the seeds of chance before they begin their sentence, as well as help them navigate the most basic technical skills needed when they're released.
In the year since the Re-Entry Commission report was adopted, the City-County Council has banned the box – the one that prohibits local government and the 28,000 vendors it does business with from asking a job applicant if they've been convicted of a crime.
The next challenge, they say, is convincing the private sector to follow suit.
"It's not a matter of whether you served time," said City-County Councilor Vop Osili. "It's now a matter of where you are now. And more importantly: Is the job you're going for in any way related to what you served time for."
For the 6,000-8,000 Dept. of Corrections offenders released back into Indianapolis each year, housing is always a large and looming challenge. The Re-Entry Commission has convinced the Indianapolis Housing Authority to help ex-offenders overcome that challenge.
"The Indianapolis Housing Authority has reduced the admission requirements for people with drug-related arrests from five years to three years to help increase access to housing for re-entrants," said City-County Councilor Mary Moriarity-Adams, a member of the council's Public Safety Committee.
Indianapolis police have rolled out a program that puts a police officer and a parole officer in front of a newly released offender with offers of a range of services toward employment, housing, substance abuse and mental health counseling. Those who go through the program have a recidivism rate of just 12 percent; compared to the DOC recidivism rate of 50 percent. But the city's burgeoning homicide rate and uptick in overall crime has made Re-Entry an even tougher sell to the public at large.
"It's not the murderers and these types of offenders we're letting out," said Lena Hackett, with Community Solutions Inc. "It's the low level, in and out of the system that, if we can capture them, then we can really have an impact on the system and the health of the community."
The Re-Entry Commission has calculated the benefits to the taxpayers to the tune of $5 million annually if just 1 percent of ex-offenders avoid arrest and a trip back to prison.
Many of the 26 recommendations made by the Re-Entry Commission will need approval from the state legislature. One recent change, though, will allow offenders convicted of low-level felonies to expunge or erase their conviction if they don't commit the same offense within five years.
WATCH: Nat'l Guard returns home to Indiana fams
Tearful reunions marked the return of 10 National Guard soldiers to their Indiana home on Wednesday.
Classic cars to tout Indiana festival
Dozens of classic car owners are driving around Indiana to promote the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival near Fort Wayne this weekend.
IMPD: Infant abducted, Amber Alert issued
Police said a baby boy was in extreme danger in a statewide Amber Alert case that began Wednesday.
Indiana gets grant to fight bat disease
Indiana will receive $36,500 from the federal government in hopes of curbing the spread of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that can be fatal to…
Purdue students get funds for Africa projects
Two teams of Purdue University students have been awarded nearly $20,000 for projects intended to boost an African village's water supply and…
Explosion at Indiana BP refinery felt miles away
An explosion sparked a fire at the same Indiana BP refinery that saw roughly 1,600 gallons of oil spilled into Lake Michigan last spring.