Forum in Lafayette to encourage businesses to hire former inmates

Posted at 6:27 PM, Mar 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-26 19:27:29-04

Right on Crime,  SLCC and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office are encouraging businesses to hire former inmates and help reduce the cycle of re-incarceration.

Wednesday, they will host a forum to discuss the benefits and how they can help those individuals. One inmate says the program has helped get a new perspective on life

“A person has a point in life where they hit rock bottom. and I’ve never fallen so low and as hard as I did this time,” says Christopher Richard an inmate in Lafayette Parish

For Richard, an inmate in Lafayette Parish, that rock bottom was a year ago when he was arrested for drug-related charges.

This is his fourth time in jail but he says this time is different.

“I got a promotion.  I went from the detail shop to the tunnel,” Richard said.

Richard lives and takes classes in the Sheriff’s Public Safety Complex but works outside the prison at a Lafayette auto shop.

He is one of the hundreds who are in the diversion program, where non-violent offenders go through different courses like anger management, substance abuse therapy, and vocational training.

They also work at real businesses, ranging from factories to restaurants across the parish to help complete their sentence.

“You know, I’d get out of jail and I didnt have the classes that I took this time to teach me the things about my self and this time I feel it’s going to be different because I’ve taken the classes, I’ve learned the things that I need to learn,” Richard said.

In Louisiana, about 18,000 people are released from jail annually. Of those, about 43 percent will return back to jail within 5 years.

That cycle of repeat offenders costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

Right on Crime  a non-profit which aims to reduce crime says employment helps to stop that cycle

“If we can encourage employers to at least consider this population and understand that the majority when they come out of the facilities, theyre ready to be productive and successful employees,” says Scott Peyton, State Director of Right on Crime.

The Lafayette Sheriff’s Office Diversion Coordinator Lacie Dunn says this program helps inmates prepare for the real world before their release.

“So before they’re actually released to go back home, they’re learning how to handle all the normal stresses that they would have to deal with in the outside world, in society while they’re incarcerated. so we’re just giving them a different avenue to save money, to learn how to balance things, create a structured environment, a structured routine for them,” Dunn said.

That structure is providing inmates like Richard the tools to move forward

“Definitely a new chapter, a different book. For me, personally, I’ve learned things about myself that in my addiction I never would’ve even questioned or thought about. You know, its helped me mentally and physically,” Richard says.

That forum will take place Wednesday, March 27, 2019, at the Lafayette Sheriff’s Public Safety Complex at 9:00 a.m.