Tarrant County is launching a new inmate reintegration program to help released inmates find housing, jobs and skills, Sheriff Bill Weyborn told a news conference Monday.
The Pathways to HOPE program (or helping criminals overcome persecution) with the non-profit One Community USA will accept 30 participants who will leave the prison system. The participants will be given a mentor, will be provided with an apartment, transport, will help to find a job.
The Way program, which launches 18 months after the 40-hour initial entry orientation, is expected to reduce the recurrence rate from 17% to 6%, Weiborn said.
One Community founder and CEO Tony Brinker said it could help criminals become an investor in society.
“These people will be your neighbors,” Brinker said. “We want to give them successful tools.”
Weiborn said the 30 participants who plan to start the program in the next 30 days will be selected based on their individuality. Most perpetrators of violence and sexual offenses have already been excluded from the program.
“Prospective Way participants will be judged on their desire to get out of jail, start building better lives for themselves, contribute to society,” Weiborn said. Many will be convicted of drug offenses, theft charges or other non-violent crimes.
“Justice must be followed by mercy and grace,” Weiborn said. “In Texas, we are tough on crime, we follow the law, but we want people to be as good as possible. This program will give them the tools to do it. ”
Weiborn said 80 percent of inmates grew up without fathers’ homes and did not finish high school. The mentoring element of this program, combined with GED programs for inmates in prison, can help fill in the gaps that prevent program participants from being successful.
It will lighten some of the burden on the legal system if successful, Weiborn said.
The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office is also in talks with a local college to add an element of higher education to the program.
According to Weiborn, the main goal was to help people reintegrate, find a goal, connect with family, friends, and later avoid crime.
“We want them to return to the world, to succeed, to be able to return,” Weiborn said.