PACE helps released inmates re-enter community

INDIANAPOLIS - An organization in central Indiana is working to give inmates released from prison other alternatives to crime.

An estimated 5,000 men and women are released from prison and go home to Marion County each year. Some say that without jobs, those offenders are more likely to get in trouble again.

Public Advocates in Community Re-entry  work to help convicted felons overcome barriers and enable those returning citizens to become responsible and productive members of society.

"They went to prison they paid their debt to society, they've fulfilled whatever requirements. Now it's time for them to move on and take care of their family and people have to realize it's not just about them, they have children," PACE Executive Director Rhiannon Edwards said.

Veronica Romero finished a three-year sentence for drug possession five years ago.

"I felt like everybody was just pointing the finger at me and not looking at me. I learned my lesson, I've almost got my associate's degree, I'm a different person," Romero said.

"This is an ongoing problem and if we don't start making it more of an equal playing field for people with felony convictions, it's going to keep getting worse. We're going to see more burglaries and things like that because people have to survive," Edwards said.

Romero has done more than just survive. She said thanks to a career as a program director because of PACE, she is proud when she looks into the eyes of her children.

"Sometimes it's like it's a dream I can't believe I've had this second chance," Romero said.

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