BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The State of Louisiana is known for handing out hard prison sentences, and after getting out, many former inmates may end up back behind bars.
The Baton Rouge Day Reporting Center, which opened in March of 2015, is designed to keep that from happening. When an offender is released from prison, they often return to a world that may have passed them by and are quickly forced to try to adapt. However, if the Probation and Parole Division notices someone struggling to transition, the Baton Rouge Day Reporting Center fills the gap.
Lawrence Martin is enrolled in the program. "This program has kind of given me some chances to make some life changes," he says.
Those considered to have a high risk of returning to prison are at the center for a minimum of 90 days. They're taught personal communication skills and how to have a positive outlook. "It gives us a second chance at life, a second chance at being somebody successful," said Martin.
Once probationers are enrolled, their past is forgotten and they are no longer referred to as offenders or felons, but as participants of a life-altering program. "When I was told I was supposed to report to this program, I hated this program, but after attending the program, it's been one of the most wonderful things that could happen to me," said program graduate, Reginald Rome.
Stephen Coco graduated a little over a year ago. "We're putting the past behind us, we're making a new future for ourselves. That's what this place is all about," said Coco.
Martin said if it wasn't for the extra support he received after serving time, he would either be on back the streets, on drugs, or back in jail. "It kind of makes you feel good about yourself, knowing you're on the right path and doing the right things," he said.
Department of Corrections secretary, James LeBlanc, says programs like this are not only saving taxpayers big bucks, but also cleaning up the city and helping people realize they can change. "They've done their time, they've paid their dues. We need to treat them like returning citizens and treat them like they've done their time and paid their dues to society," said LeBlanc.