Tulsa Non-Profit Helps Ex-Cons Re-Integrate After Prison
TULSA, Oklahoma -
Hundreds of Oklahoma prisoners are released each year, with nothing but a few bucks in their pocket.
They struggle to get a job and often end up back behind bars. But a Tulsa non-profit organization is working to reduce the recidivism rate.
At the Tulsa Reentry One-Stop Center, counselors strive to give ex-cons, like Heidi Allen, a second chance at life.
"You get to the point to where you're just like, you feel hopeless and you feel suffocated, because how are you suppose to get through the struggles if you can't have employment?" Allen said.
She spent 14 months in prison for grand larceny and forgery.
"When I first got out, I put in application, after application, after application and was denied, denied, denied because of my charges," Allen said.
But now things are different.
The Reentry Center accepts anyone who's been out of prison for less than six months. They go through classes to prepare them for life after prison.
"They've taught me how to interview and to not be so nervous and not be ashamed of the past and the mistakes that I've made," Allen said.
Allen said she has a newfound confidence, and hopes that will help her land a job.
"It was just like a major wall lifted off me. The words don't do justice for what they've done for me," she said.
Program Manager Dolores Verbonitz explained, ex-cons have so many barriers to overcome after they've been released from prison.
"If we are not putting resources into diversion programs and reentry programs, we're going to be putting more money into prisons," Verbonitz said.
Since the center opened in October, 110 people have enrolled. Nearly half have found jobs, including Anthony Wiley.
"I feel like this program is a big help for people who take it and utilize it, because these people care and they go out their way to make sure they get you a job," Wiley said.
He's even found his own place to live, which is something he hasn't had in more than a decade.
"Everybody has made a mistake, so everybody deserves a second chance," Wiley said.
Wiley and others in the program get to work with counselors for one year.