Inmate re-entry program closes revolving door; huge success - NBC40.net

Inmate re-entry program closes revolving door; huge success

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The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world,  but one warden in Cumberland County is making it his goal to bring that number down  and his program seems to be working.

"I want to go out there and be a productive member of society," inmate John Carter said.

John Carter is a current inmate here in the Cumberland County Jail, but he couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity he's been given here, getting another chance, in a special program.

"It's going to allow me to work and to go out there and not give up so easily. It's given me the ambition that I need to drive," Carter added.

It's not just given John the ambition to succeed either. It seems to be working for many; to be exact about 93% of those who come through this program don't return, a figure that is often unheard of. In the general population here, 73% of inmates will return.

"Often when you get into jail it can be a very dark and scary place but the last chance program basically proved to be a beckon of light to give us hope," Bryan Toft said.

Bryan Toft is a re-entry success story.

After hitting rock bottom and ending up behind bars, John says now, he would be either back in jail again or dead if it weren't for this program. Instead he's working full time in a law firm.

"I think it is an opportunity for you to be given the tools to help change you life and not make the same mistakes you've been making," Toft said.

Here in prison the guys say they are dedicated to becoming productive citizens on the outside. They now have tools they never had before, but it's not just the inmates and prison officials praising the program. Industry professionals now want to make this a model for prisons nationwide.

"I've been doing this almost 30 years and I've not seen in all the areas that I've worked in prison and re-entry, I've not seen this kind of comprehensive work that is being done as effective with the men and women that are coming out of prison," Exec. Dir. of Monmouth and Ocean County Re-entry Task force, Sharon Ryan said.

What each former and current inmate says is key to their success is their counselors. They identify their problems and they explain to the men and women why they are here. They have them understand how to make better decisions on the outside, using real life examples.

"I'm so focused and its like I got tunnel vision on being focused on doing better then I ever did and all I have to do is just apply the skills that I got," one inmate said.

While this program focus' on current inmates, their counselors will continue to follow them once on the outside giving them that necessary support system to stay on track.

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