“It’s something I can show my kids, and they can be proud of it, because there’s not been a lot I’ve done to make them proud in the last 16 years,” Earl said. “That means more to me than anything.”
To rehabilitate inmates, giving them purpose beyond their inherited drug culture helps to create a solid foundation once they’re released, he said.
“This program gives me something to look forward to when I wake up, gives me a purpose, a task, an opportunity to succeed to avoid coming back,” he said. “In the last 16 years, I’ve been out for 91 days — 91 days, three months, that’s it.”
Earl said in the past he hadn’t been ready when he was released to deal with life on the outside.
“Things have changed so much, I didn’t know how to get a job in today’s world, and I had no one to speak on behalf of my work, I got stuck again,” he said. “Now, no matter the job, I can say to an employer, ‘You can call Sheriff Mike Morris, he’ll be my reference,’ because he can at least account for my work ethic, and I’m so grateful for that.”
Morris said creating unique rehabilitation programs using specific talents and interests help inmates avoid coming back into the system.
“Anytime you can keep them busy, keep them working so they can see it’s not so bad, then they can go out and go to work, get real jobs, become productive members of society again helps,” he said. “You’ll be tempted, there will absolutely be those temptations, but this is something you can do, this is something you’re capable of, and I think it’s something you enjoy doing.”
While he’s painting the murals, Earl has also been working to repaint the doors and create an overall more professional environment with personal touches throughout.
“If I can paint, I’m going to paint, it’s really that simple,” he said. “It’s not just painting, it’s artwork, it’s my influence, it’s my responsibility.
“And that’s something to take pride in.”