Community can give to inmates ready to give back to the community

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011

Needed: size 46 waist, 38 inseam pants and pink high-heeled shoes. No, not for the same person.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

These are just a few of the items the community of Juneau can donate to the group of citizens who will be rejoining life outside of prison as part of the fourth annual Success Inside and Out program at Lemon Creek Correctional Center on Saturday.

The program is a pre-release meeting between men and women at LCCC and community members who lead much appreciated workshops of finance, legal, spiritual and artistic aid.

Any donations of aid or goods are welcome. Items as basic as a month bus pass or a meal voucher can mean the world to a person trying to put one foot in front of the other on a path to a new start.

“A person really needs family support,” ex-prisoner Joe Contreras, 62, said. “If you have that you are really lucky. I had nothing. No clothes, nothing. I had to find leftovers at the laundromat. So clothes are a great idea.”

Contreras, who says he did “Nelson Mandela time,” spent 37 years in prison, nine of those in solitary confinement in places with names such as San Quentin and Chino and 28 in Alaska. With halfway house stays he has been incarcerated for nearly 40 years.

Contreras will be one of six former inmates speaking, all of whom have graduated from the program and are succeeding on the outside.

Contreras’ crimes have included robbery, sexual assault, theft, burglary, and drugs. He escaped nine times; the last was on July 25, 1984, from the very same institution he will speak at Saturday. Contreras was released from prison at 3:10 p.m. on June 25, 2008. Out on discretionary parole he is now completing Computer Aided Design courses and has been promised a job.

“And if you have the community you have a good start,” Contreras said. “The halfway house was great for me. Helping people with jobs is another plus, job training, or just basic course in welding or something in an area they are interested in.”

Jo Ann Lockwood, a 2009 Therapeutic Court graduate, will also speak at the Success program. Lockwood, 55, had an addiction to alcohol and tells inmates “you need to change your thinking, thoughts are chemically bound to emotions like a little library book into your brain. As old thoughts come in, you purge those old emotions out and recreate new thought patterns.”

Lockwood finally hit the wall of addiction after a conviction for drunken driving and when her son was placed into foster care 10 years ago due to her and her husband’s drinking. Sober and on minimum probation, Lockwood has her family back together.

“I hope the men and women getting out take advantage of the people who are sitting in front of them on Saturday,” Lockwood said. “I hope they get their cards and phone numbers, that they reach out.”

Lockwood suggests the community could donate via Salvation Army, or vouchers.

“Mainly what I see is the expense of bus passes or state identification,” Lockwood said. “Even books for the prison library.”

Other speakers and activities will include LCCC superintendent Scott Wellard, Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court Walter Carpenenti, former prisoners discussing how to stop the revolving door to prison, musical stylings of Collette Costa and Scott Burton, and a variety of workshop sessions hosted by members of the community.

Food sponsors include The Island Pub, Bullwinkle’s Pizza, Subway, McDonald’s and a variety of individually made or brought desserts, chips and soft drinks.

A highlight every year is the Dress for Success fashion show in which local dignitaries and LCCC models demonstrate what to wear and what not to wear for job interviews or the first day of work.

Aside from the aforementioned large pants and pink pumps, a variety of items are needed to insure a successful catwalk.

Men’s wear needs include extra-large Docker-style shirts, size 3X T-shirts, size 36 waist Wrangler jeans, size 9 1/2 Western boots and size 12 tennis shoes. For women, the program is asking for size 6 and 8 1/2 heels, size 6 1/2 to 7 flats, size 8-10 pants, size 5 and 10 clothing, a size 6 black pants and jacket combination, size 14 black or brown pants and jacket and size medium blouses and tops.

Other donation ideas for outgoing inmates include watches, cosmetics, toiletries, needles and thread, pens and paper, calendars, calculators, gift certificates, meal vouchers, phone cards, gloves, hats and socks.

“It’s hard. Each guy or girl coming out will have a different answer as to what they need or want the most,” Contreras said.

Anyone interested in participating as a speaker, sponsor, prospective employer, or who wishes to donate items can contact Sharon Heidersdorf at 463-4700, Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins at 463-4741, District Court Judge Keith Levy at 463-4730, LCCC’s Scott Wellard at 465-6206 or the LCCC at 465-6200.

Success Inside and Out is sponsored by the Alaska Court System in collaboration with LCCC and Gastineau Human Services.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at

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