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Second Chance After Serving Time

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EUGENE, Ore. — Early releases from the Lane County Jail are frustrating residents. Even more upsetting is when a former inmate is re-arrested. But a local organization is working to keep those numbers down.

Let go early due to budget cuts, for many released from the Lane County Jail or prison, they have no place to go.

Some find a second chance at Sponsors, a prisoner re-entry service which provides housing, case management, assistance with employment and mentoring.

Right now it’s home to Paul Wells, a convicted murderer.

“I took a man’s life and was sentenced to 25 years,” Wells said.

He was found guilty in Lane County in 1991. Wells got out after 20 years due to good behavior, but 20 years is a long time.

“Upon your release from prison, they give you $35 and a bus ticket to wherever you have to report, and I had no family, no friends, no support system, no inkling as to what I was going to do,” Wells said.

During prison, his counselor suggested he apply to Sponsors. Beds at the Roosevelt Crossing are limited to just 72. Wells was accepted and it changed his life.

“It’s a helping hand up. It’s the most amazing place I’ve ever been to in my life,” Wells said.

Sponsors is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month.

Each year, Sponsors assists about 350 people with criminal histories. About 20 percent of those are released from Lane County Jail, but the majority are former prison inmates from Lane County.  Statistics show the program works.

“Eighty percent of our people graduate successfully. Of the 100 percent who come here, 67 percent will not go back to prison,” said Trish DeJohn of Sponsors, Inc.

Cane in hand, Wells is losing his sight, but he is walking forward. He’s in the Sponsors Honor Program, taking classes at Lane Community College and is training to become a mentor for others who will follow in his footsteps. While he can’t erase the past, he’s sees a bright future.

“What I did is always going to stay with me. It’s going to be ever present in my life, but I’m not going to let be an anchor that drags me down for the rest of my life,” Wells said.

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  1. Louis Mensing says:

    It all depends on if you have some one as a p.o. who helps you and doesn’t think they control you. The parole system in Eugene is part of the real problem. I have known some that cared about who they were there to help and others who simply wanted to make money on the inmates. Some are abusers and perhaps others care. So are so uneducated that they are the the ones that make inmates fail. By the way prisons don’t chane inmates unless the inmates have someone who cares…
    The US has more incarcerted people that any other country on the earth. There used to be a program called the New Gate project but that was in the late 60’s. Never been one since. Why because the legislators don’t want to save money. That was the time where Philip Zimbardo did the Stanford Prison Experment. Look him up on the Interned and ask the legislators to have him come and speak to them. The legislaters are the ones that approprate the money and make laws. the governor is the one that excutes the laws. And the public that pays taxes are the ones who pay the bills.

  2. Jacqueline David says:

    They waste money to extradite my husband back to Oregon from WV on non payment of child support, now they may release him but make him stay out there until April 25 the day of his hearing. He is not a violent man and we offered to pay this child support but they said it was too late and waste money to pay WV one month jail time here and then extradite him. Now he will be homeless out there for a month. What is wrong with this state?????

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