Houston city program gives ex-offenders a chance to learn work skills

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas prisons cost taxpayers roughly $50 per inmate per day, or $18,500 a year.

In an effort to keep offenders from returning to jail, the city of Houston started a re-entry program that teaches hands-on skills and helps them land a job.

Charles English is one of 80 new graduates of the Houston Health Department's Community Re-Entry Network Program. English is currently employed by Houston Public Works Department.

English was locked up for two years on drug charges and lost everything he loved, which forced him to self-reflect and make a change.

"That was it. I made my mind up. I was done," recalled English.

The city of Houston program partners with groups like Public Works to find offenders jobs, which is extremely difficult to get if you have a felony.

English says the program taught him life skills and work management. It also taught him once again about being a productive citizen. For him and many others in the past decade, it's been a God-send.

"The re-entry program has given me a sense of hope. A sense of confidence in myself again," said English.

Officials believe if they don't employ and empower former offenders, the recidivism rate, or the rate at which former offenders relapse into criminal behavior, will be high.

As of May 2018, the graduating class from May 2017 had a recidivism rate of 4.76 percent. The average recidivism rate in Texas is 22.6 percent.

"The people who come through our program, they're not mandated by anyone to come," said LaTosha Selexman, a division manager the Community Re-Entry Network Program. "And so, they have a strong will and testament to come out and do better, so we want to support them coming out and doing better for themselves."

English wants everyone who's been incarcerated to know, there's light at the end of the tunnel.

"There's opportunity after drugs. There's opportunity after criminal activity. And, man, it's just a wonderful activity to have the city of Houston help me. The same people that locked me up is the same people that helped me," said English.

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