Orleans parish prison training shows promise - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Louisiana State Penitentiary focuses on life training, technical skills for inmates

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Angola Penitentiary -

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite visited the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola on Thursday for a first hand look at a program designed to keep inmates from returning to prison.

The program focuses on giving inmates intensive life training and technical skills in a place where hope often comes to die.

"This ain't no place for no man to be," said inmate and program participant Timothy Jones. "I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy."

With an inmate population of over 6,100, Angola penitentiary is the largest maximum security prison in the world sitting on 18,000 acres.

"Now, it's going to be the model for the country," said Gary Young with the Louisiana Department Of Corrections.

In spite of the guards, the razorwire and the fact that 85 percent of the prisoners will never leave, if you listen closely, you can hear hope for a better life.

"He's gotta' study. He's got to make it back home," said inmate mentor Clarence Colbert. "So he better touch the right wire."

Some have committed the most violent of crimes. Now, they have passed an intensive seminary course and are mentors to offenders from Orleans Parish. They have been sent here to learn the skills needed to get out, and stay out.

Judge Laurie White and Judge Arthur Hunter of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court have invested in the program in a big way. They would like others to get on board but need more help.

Judge White has put 130 people through the pre-release program and now supervises 40 who have been released and five who have graduated.

She would like to see more businesses assist in training these offenders and hiring them when they've graduated.

"My goal is to get universities involved to get pardons for those who have completed the programs," said White.

So far, her graduates are doing well The feds are taking notice.

"Federal models are few. We're learning more from the state system," said U.S. Attorney Polite.

The inmates are mentored in morals and life skills. Inmates can train in 19 different technical areas, everything from horticulture to car repair.

"I've got a daughter. I want to get out and support her. I can't do that in here," said Jones.

He promises, with a little help, he'll never come back.

Judge White says all of the program graduates are leading productive lives and have caused no problems.

The pre-release program started in Orleans Parish has now been adopted in seven other parishes.

Two other states also participated in Thursday's tour and are looking at implementing a similar program.

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