Baton Rouge prison ministry program helping ex-cons expands

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An expansion is coming to one of Baton Rouge's oldest programs that helps give ex-cons a place to stay as they try to rebuild their lives.

Statistically, about half of people who get out of prison end up going back. The chances going back to prison go way down when people get into the Catholic Charities' Joseph Homes.

Quietly tucked away in a small apartment off of 11th Street, a man is fast at work. Tyrone Mitchell is learning to read better and "do math." His homework is what he calls it.

These sound like simple life skills, but these are only the beginning for Mitchell. He spent the last 15 years of his life in prison for selling drugs.

"The day that they said I was being released I was scared, because I really had nowhere to go. No money, no nothing," Mitchell said.

Mitchell now owes his home and job to people on the outside, specifically the Joseph Homes program. Mitchell saved up and paid $75 for the first month, and then after that he paid $75 a week for a furnished apartment, utilities and a new lease on life.

"They are making me feel like more of a man instead of a man who was raised in prison," Mitchell said. "I'm a man out here in society to do the right thing now."

At the end of July, Joseph Homes will dedicate a new addition to the program: eight furnished efficiency apartments. The program started 25 years ago and was one of the first in the region to help ex-cons.

"They're coming home. They're returning to our communities, and I think we need to have an environment for them," said Linda Fjeldsjo, Prison Ministry coordinator. "We need to have supportive services for them to make that transition a successful reentry into society and to help them as much as possible. Right now in Louisiana when a person is released from a state facility, they're given $20 on what they call a JPay Card. Can you imagine restarting your life with $20?"

Mitchell now works at the St. Vincent DePaul store helping those at the very place he turned to for help. He said an honest living is worth more than any paycheck.

"When I get up in the morning and go to work, I get paid every two weeks," Mitchell said. "I can work the whole two weeks in peace, and when payday comes it all shows. I can go to the bank and put money in my own savings account."

Mitchell said that peace is what he goes through his mind now when he comes home from work.

"Because when I was doing the wrong things out there selling drugs, the money was good, but I didn't have peace cause I was worried about someone kicking my door in and robbing me. I was worried about the police kicking in my door and bringing me to jail. I just didn't have peace. Now my mind is at rest."

If you'd like to help Joseph Homes, contact Catholic Charities at 336-4406 or by visiting

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