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.