PLAINFIELD, Ind. — David Reid didn’t expect anything good to come from being locked up after he was convicted on a drug-possession charge, but he may have found his calling because of it.
The college-educated father of five is spending his short time in prison teaching fellow offenders how to write resumes, search for work and stay out of the kind of trouble that could land them back behind bars.
It’s experience the 35-year-old former car dealer would like to use to launch a new career as a counselor to ex-convicts, telling them the most important thing he’s learned in prison: “If you can’t change your mindset, you’re making a reservation for your next trip back.”
Programs aimed at keeping offenders from re-offending aren’t new to the Indiana prison system. But the program of which Reid is a part is novel.
He’s enrolled in the Indiana Department of Correction Short Term Offender Program, housed in a minimum security facility for low-level, low-risk offenders with little prison time to do.
Opened in March on the site of the former Indiana Boys School, the STOP facility has served more than 500 DOC inmates. All are required to complete an intensive program of work, counseling and classroom learning that’s focused on keeping them out of prison once they’re out.
It’s a small solution to the state’s big problem of too many offenders and too few programs to serve them. Of the nearly 20,000 inmates released from the Indiana Department of Correction last year, almost 65 percent of them were sent to the DOC for a year or less.
STOP Superintendent David Burch says short-term offenders almost always miss out on the treatment and training programs that are critical to reducing recidivism.
“They’d be gone before we could get to them,” said Burch, describing the long waiting list for programs in DOC prisons.
The Indiana Department of Correction started STOP to counter that. Every offender who comes through the gate is fast-tracked into a program that teaches them the problem-solving skills needed to change the criminal behavior that landed them in prison. Inmates like Reed are used to offer peer support and counseling.
It’s too soon to tell if STOP is working, but similar programs in other states report reduced recidivism rates for offenders.
Reid is hopeful his short stint in prison will be his last time there. “I’ve come to believe everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I’ve learned things in here that are going to help me do better when I get back out there.”
Maureen Hayden is Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org