Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office graduates 44 inmates from 2013 re-entry program

By John Harper, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
June 13, 2013 at 9:42 PM

Forty-four Orleans Parish inmates, for years denied almost all close contact with family members, sat just feet away from parents and other relatives waiting to congratulate them Thursday. The occasion: The 23rd class was graduating from the Sheriff’s Office’s Re-entry and Rehabilitation Program, a vocational training program touted as a bright spot for a prison otherwise mired in criticism and turmoil.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman kicked off the ceremony by highlighting the program’s success in keeping graduates out of prison. Statistics released by Gusman’s office indicate that the program — which is open to inmates who are within 18 months of release — can claim to have succeeded in reducing recidivism rates by 12 percent in 2011. While 25.6 percent of inmates not participating in the re-entry program ended up back behind bars, only 13.6 percent of graduates of the program did so.

It has been a rough two weeks for the prison. Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux released a report last week that rebuffed often-repeated claims by Gusman that the prison’s problems result from inadequate funding by the city. On the same day, a federal judge’s ruling revealed grisly accounts of prisoner abuse.

The message delivered to the re-entry graduates on Thursday was resoundingly positive, however.

Retired Judge Calvin Johnson spoke of his difficulties with probation and life failures, telling graduates that everyone has failed, and that there is proof outside prison walls that “you can live happily ever after.”

Former City Councilman Oliver Thomas, himself a former federal prison inmate, gave the keynote speech, telling the graduates that they are the only ones who can fix the problems, because “everyone on the outside has already screwed it up.”

Read more here: http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2013/06/orleans_parish_sheriffs_office_6.html#incart_river

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