FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As Indiana steps up its efforts to give felons a second chance, one local organization is chipping in and fighting crime one graduate at a time. Blue Jacket in Fort Wayne offers a re-entry program for ex-offenders, the homeless, veterans, and others.
In July 2013, a new law took effect in Indiana: if people with Class D felonies stay clean for 5 years, they can have their criminal record wiped clean. Leaders at Blue Jacket said that law is providing incentive for ex-offenders to stay on the right path, and at their organization, they’re seeing fewer of their graduates return to prison and more of them finding jobs.
“Coming off of one of the most violent years in Fort Wayne’s history…what this is saying to the Fort Wayne/Allen County area is that this is a non-profit that’s dedicated to making sure people become employed whether they have a criminal background or not also making sure that people remain safe,” said Blue Jacket Executive Director, Tony Hudson.
Of Blue Jacket’s 2012 graduates with a criminal background, only nine percent of them have returned to prison, a statistic staff was predicting would be more than 30 percent. Also, on average, 66 percent of the program’s graduates gain employment within the first three months of graduating and retain those jobs.
“It wasn’t easy, but I wanted to prove to myself that I was worth it that I could do it, and I was here to better myself,” said Jeffrey Shoemaker, a Blue Jacket graduate.
Like many other clients, a felony led Shoemaker to Blue Jacket’s door. However, after completing the program and learning soft skills such as how to positively portray himself in an interview, Shoemaker became employed at a job he’s had for a year and half.
“It’s an ongoing process, but I like where I’m at today,” he said. “I’m successful. I’m on my feet. I don’t struggle.”
If people would like to help classes continue at Blue Jacket, they can click here for more information.