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“Opportunity” for life after jail with SJSO re-entry program

LAPLACE — The St. John Sheriff’s Office presented its ninth class for its Opportunity Now Re-Entry Program for inmates during a graduation ceremony Thursday at the Leonard Robinet Multi-Purpose Room in LaPlace.

Sheriff Mike Tregre said this graduation milestone marks the first steps to second chances for the graduates. The SJSO’s Opportunity Now program differs from traditional re-entry programs because it is a collaborative effort between the St. John Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana Rehabilitation Services and the Louisiana Department of Corrections to provide work readiness, job placement and other self-sufficiency services to qualified inmates, Opportunity Now director Joe Lewis said.

“The purpose of this program is for you to be productive,” Lewis told the inmates during graduation.

Re-Entry participants were required to successfully complete three months of intensive work readiness and life skills training.

The courses are designed to help inmates make better choices and to cope with a variety of issues they may face upon re-entering society. Job placement and case management services are also mandated aspects of the SJSO Opportunity Now Re-entry Program.

Sheriff Mike Tregre congratulates inmates during Opportunity Now re-entry graduation Oct. 11 at the Leonard Robinet Mult-Purpose Room in LaPlace.

Tregre, Warden Gordon Jeffcoat and Assistant Warden Sharon Sealy joined Lewis in congratulating the 15 men for their accomplishments in the program and encouraged them to stay on the right path.

Jeffcoat said the program teaches inmates basic skills to help them transition into main stream society and become productive members of society.

Tregre, who started this program in 2014, praised Lewis and his staff for their work.

“The staff is passionate about this program. Rehabilitation is much better than incarceration,” he said.

“This program is about giving these men the opportunity to develop skills so they can be released from a correctional facility and experience success in life.”

Many family members and friends attended the graduation to support their loved ones.