“It wasn’t easy, having to come back in society, with having to adjust myself to the real world after spending 35 years in prison.”
Reginald is in his 60s, and was sentenced to 121 years for armed robbery and attempted murder. Now, he’s out on parole, participating in an intensive reentry program through what’s known as a “day reporting center”.
“I have to stay in this program roughly at about 7-8 months, and which I am basically what you consider as like being in transition. You know, it happens every day, okay?”
Obinna Ikechukwu is Reginald’s counselor at the day reporting center in Baton Rouge.
“We work on computers here, along with life skills. We address substance abuse problems. But mostly we’re helping them with problem solving and decision making,” Ikechukwu says.
For each former inmate, “You’re working on a behavior change plan, so you’re doing “smart goals”, that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely – one piece at a time. We don’t want to make it too complex.”
Reginald says he learned his biggest temptations came through certain people, so one price of his freedom has been loneliness.
“I basically stay to myself, okay? And I be very selective about the people I chose as friends and associates.”
But, he says, paying that price for freedom is totally worth it.
“I can honestly sit here and say that it honestly paid off,” Reginald says. “I have a very fine job. I have my own apartment, okay? I give a lot of credit to the program. You know, it really helped out a lot. ‘Cause who knows – I’d probably have been back on drugs or back in prison or whatever.”
Then he gets a big grin on his face, and shakes his head, wonderingly.
“Life is wonderful. I’m really enjoying the moment.”
Re-entry programs like this do work, but they aren’t cheap. State budget constraints meant closing down two of Louisiana’s eight “day reporting center” programs over the past two years, and limiting the numbers of former inmates that can be served through the centers that remain in operation.
Tomorrow we’ll look at how money is influencing the push for criminal justice reforms.