Program Helps Keep Ex-Offenders Out Of Prison

Study Hopes To Improve Former Inmates' Resources

The Department of Correction released almost 20,000 inmates across Indiana last year -- 4,500 of them in Indianapolis -- and a DOC study estimates that 40 percent of them will end up back behind bars within three years of their release.

An experimental program on the city's east side hopes to change that pattern by helping ex-offenders avoid going back to prison, reported RTV6's Jack Rinehart.

Indianapolis is one of seven cities chosen to participate in the Department of Labor's two-year study, which will be conducted at Recycle Force, near 10th Street and Sherman Drive.

Recycle Force helps ex-offenders with a job and a paycheck. It also provides counseling and mentoring services and gives offenders time off to meet court- imposed requirements that cause them to miss work.

As part of the study -- which aims to devise strategies to help former inmates become productive members of the community -- Recycle Force will hire 1,000 ex-offenders over the next two years. Half will get in-house services, such as counseling, and the other half will have to find help for themselves in the community.

"The study will look at the impact relating to recidivism, child support payments and family formations; how people gain skills and move into private sector jobs," said Greg Keesling, president of Recycle Force.

Andrew King knows firsthand how difficult life can be for someone who has just gotten out of prison.

After serving a 17-month sentence behind bars, and with no place to call home, King was court-ordered to live under the bridge at Washington Street and Interstate 65 so correctional officials could keep tabs on his whereabouts. King said he lived under the bridge for about a month.

"It was very stressful," King said. "I had no money, no means, no idea how I was not going to go back to prison."

Today, King is on the staff of Recycle Force, helping other ex-offenders avoid some of the issues he experienced when trying to rejoin the community.

"We know what the problems are, the drug drops, the problems at home, everything that comes up, I've been through it," King said.

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