EUGENE, Ore. — After two years, the education program is back at the Lane County Jail. The program closed in June of 2012 because of budget cuts. But thanks to dollars from House Bill 3194, that passed just last summer, offenders have another chance at the world outside a cell.
Charles Bukowski is a famous author, poet and the subject of this afternoon’s class. While you may recognize his name, 58-year-old Sherrie Mireles probably doesn’t ring a bell, but her story might.
“I saw my baby’s father get killed at a young age and I never dealt with it. So, my way of taking care of myself was self-medicating,” says Mireles. A relapse landed her back in jail, but this program is giving her a second chance.
Deputy Eric Rosander who manages the Lane County Sheriff’s Office’s Alternative Programs says, “This is one of the better programs we provide. Instead of locking people up or requiring manual labor, they actually get a skill that will help them be productive in society again.”
The program helps offenders get their GED’s and back into the work force. Coordinators say the services do more than provide a good looking resume.
“You can see the relief in their posture and you can see their confidence level go up once they get that GED in their hand,” says Sponsors Reentry Resource Director Amy Cook.
Deputy Rosander says, “This is one of the few programs I’ve seen people return again and again, even if they don’t have to, to tell us how good they’re doing.”
And the helping hand, the opportunity to do better, is one Mireles is encouraging others to take advantage of, because she says it’s never too late.
“I’m going to be able to take my GED. I’m going to be able to start college and start my life again, even at my age, and I look so forward to it.”
Participants are required to attend classes five days a week for at least 14 days. Everyone we spoke with says the program also provides a real benefit to the community and it’s cost effective. Statistics show programs like this often help reduce recidivism or repeat offenders.