Dozens of inmates work to send $17k to their families for Christmas

Updated: Dec. 12, 2018 at 5:05 PM CST
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WEST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - 'Tis the season of giving, but that can be difficult when behind bars.

West Baton Rouge Sheriff Mike Cazes makes it possible for 219 men housed at the West Baton Rouge Work Release Facility.

“They get a second chance. If you don’t give a guy a second chance, they don’t have much to look forward to,” said Cazes.

Alex Selders is serving 12 years for drug charges. He’s a work release inmate employed by a local convenience store as a cook. “I was all about the money and the drugs. Now it is about the family and my kids, putting them first now,” said Selders.

He’s now earning money. Sheriff Cazes allows work release inmates to send their families up to $500 twice a year: at Christmas and when school starts. He says it’s a morale booster and prepares them to leave the prison. “They go to work every day. They are not in prison uniform anymore versus if they do not have the chance to come here and go through this program and get a job, they are going back onto the streets and back into society with nothing that they came in with,” said Cazes.

For Christmas, 44 inmates sent anywhere between $100 and $500 to their families for a total of $17,375.

“I still want to be in their life to be able to say I did for them and not nothing. I write letters and other things, but sending money home and actually getting gifts from their dad means a lot to me,” said Selders.

Cazes says the majority of the time, escapes from the work release overshadow the good that’s been coming out of the facility for the past 20 years. “I have listened to stories that when they get out, they called me their daddy because they have never had that person in their life that cared and shake their hand and said, ‘Good morning or good evening, how are you doing today?'” said Cazes.

Checking on the inmates and trustees is something Sheriff Cazes enjoys as he walks through the work release facility. While he’s giving the inmates an opportunity to give back to their families for Christmas, the inmates say the sheriff is the one giving back to them, in the form of a life lessons and second chances.

“It gave me a start up, gave me back a footing to life to work again. When I was on the streets, I never knew anything about working or about getting up early in the morning. Now I want to get up in the morning and go,” said Selders.

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