My turn: Stop the revolving door to prison

Posted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

They say the third time is a charm. It's hard to imagine the third annual Success Inside and Out program being any more successful than the preceding years, but we are an optimistic bunch.

On April 10, community members will return to jail to offer their experiences, knowledge and a helping hand for those who are currently incarcerated. The hope, as always, is to help inmates avoid the pitfalls of the revolving jail door and start a new life after serving their time.

The day-long program will be similar to years' past. There will be break-out sessions led by community members of different disciplines - financial, legal, spiritual, etc. - where inmates could ask questions and get assistance. These sessions will include programs on personal finance and credit counseling, surviving probation, mental health and addiction issues, "straight talk" about reconnecting to family, job skills training, exploring spiritual resources, as well as art and personal fitness.

We have recruited employers to help inmates get interviews and jobs once they are released. We will have the annual "do's and don'ts" fashion show, providing insight into how to dress appropriately for a job interview (the models get to keep their clothes). For those who aren't as lucky, the Northern Lights church has indicated they have received donations and individuals in need of work clothes can get items there.

In addition to addressing the issues each inmate will face when being released, we can't resist having some fun. Colette Costa and Mike Truax will be belting out tunes again. There will be goodie bags for each participant, as well as door prizes.

The highlight, as always are the wonderful donations of time, treats and prizes from Subway, Dominos, Bullwinkle's, The Island Pub, Driftwood Lodge, Coogan Construction, Central Council Tlingit and Haida, Indian Tribes of Alaska, Northern Sales, SERCC, Little Mermaid, and other Juneau businesses and individuals. This year, Kelly Henriksen and Neil Nesheim donated canvas bags with a picture of the wonderful donation by the prison's Culture Club to last year's event, a carving by Charles High. The original is proudly displayed in Courtroom C at the courthouse.

I don't know if recidivism has decreased since the program has begun. Only time will tell. But doing nothing certainly does not help our community. Giving people a helping hand is the way we will stop the revolving door and make our community safer.

Anyone who is interested in participating as a speaker, sponsor or prospective employer - or wishing to donate items such as watches (get to work on time), calendars (mark your appointments), stamps, or gift certificates - please contact Sharon Heidersdorf at 463-4700.

• Hanna Sebold is an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau.

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