A unique criminal justice program
In 2010, Judges Arthur Hunter and Laurie White from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court devised a novel way to address the high recidivism rates in Louisiana. They asked “lifers” in prison to assist with the rehabilitation of newly sentenced prisoners. Carefully vetted lifers who have transformed after years in prison, and who now, as one lifer put it, want to "give back to the communities they once terrorized," have been selected as mentors. Through their actions behind bars, these lifer mentors are able to help mold and change the hearts of those sentenced to the Offender Rehabilitation & Workforce Development Program (“Program”) at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (“Angola”) or the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women (LCIW) before it's too late. The offenders are also taught a trade, including welding, horticulture, culinary, HVAC, concrete finishing, masonry, dry wall, painting, carpentry, plumbing and automotive mechanics, so that they can earn a livable wage upon release. In late 2014, the Judges of the 24th Judicial District Court voted to expand this program to Jefferson Parish.
Only non-violent, non-sex offenders who receive a sentence of 10 years or less may be considered. Once a male offender reaches Angola or a female offender reaches LCIW after sentencing, the moral rehabilitation and vocational training takes a minimum of 2 years. If the offender successfully completes the Program, he/she may petition the Court to reenter society. Upon reentry, the returning citizen is placed on probation under the intensive supervision of a Reentry Court, where he/she will continue to receive the services needed to succeed, including community support, substance abuse treatment and counseling.
We need to meet returning citizens at the gate. And that’s exactly what is happening here in Louisiana. People from all walks of life are coming together to give those reentering an opportunity to succeed, which in turn will make our communities safer. No more victims!