Program helps incarcerated women re-enter the workforce - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Program helps incarcerated women re-enter the workforce

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

They leave prison with nowhere to go, sometimes returning to the life that landed them behind bars.  But one program in Baton Rouge is giving incarcerated women a second chance. Once out of jail, they help women find an apartment and a job. They say it's about helping these women help themselves.

From the outside, Connections for Life looks like your average thrift store.  They sell gently used items, but the store represents a fresh start for those who work there.

"I was given a five year sentence and I did 27 and a half months in prison," said Linette Greus, program coordinator for Connections.

The women who work at the store, at one time, were all behind bars.  The program gave the women jobs and wants to keep them out of trouble and headed for a new life.

"Its so easy for them to return to old people, places and things that perhaps got them in trouble in first place," said Karen Stagg.  For 12 years, Stagg has worked with convicted women to help them steer clear of that old life.

"They don't treat you like someone who has all these strikes against you," said Rebecca Laborde.  She adds relearning the regular day to day routines-working, paying bills, up keeping a home, finding a job can often be hard for someone who has been convicted.  Being around other women, who are all trying to put their lives back on track, gives the extra boost of confidence she needs.

For 30 days the women must work at the thrift shop before they are allowed to work in the public.
Greus says they work 50 hours a week in the store and attend three meetings per week.  Greus graduated from the 12-step program and found another employer, but returned to the program when Stagg created the Program Coordinator position.  She says those involved with the program are like family.

Stagg says they also set the women up with a one-room, furnished apartment. They can then decorate their homes with items from the thrift store.  Stagg says she receives calls often from women who have gone through the program and are now contributing to community.

"There's a need for what we do," said Stagg.

As Greus puts it, "It's great to have a second chance."

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