North Texas ex-offenders get a second chance - Dallas News |

North Texas ex-offenders get a second chance

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A new crop of graduates is heading out into the world. But these students have also spent time behind bars.

Sunday 109 men and women wore a cap and gown and participated in a graduation ceremony at the Potter's House in Dallas. They completed a 12-month program called the Texas Offenders Re-Entry Initiative, known as T.O.R.I. Jeana Shaw is one of the graduates.

"Before I went into the program I had a lot of difficulties, but this program has showed me that I can keep hope alive and keep moving forward."

T.O.R.I.'s director Tina Naidoo says the program works to reduce the nation's recidivism rate. Currently, 67 percent of prisoners get re-arrested. Fifty-two percent of them end up behind bars again within three months of being released. Naidoo says T.O.R.I.'s recidivism rate is only 9 percent.

"We don't judge them. We don't get out their file. We don't know their criminal background. We don't know their history. What we see is a human being."

Naidoo says covering the essentials, like housing, employment, education, and family are the keys to the program's success.

"The court is going to demand that they have a healthy, stable living environment so one of the things we first do is we empower them to get housing, we help them get a job, and when those things are done then we go after their family and we bring the family back together."

Shaw says it's made all the difference to her and her kids.

"They are very proud of me. They see that mom has succeeded in their goals and makes them want to succeed in their goals as well."

T.O.R.I. also boasts a major cost benefit. It costs 98 cents to rehabilitate an ex-offender in the program. That's compared to the nearly 50 dollars it costs to incarcerate someone.

Since the program began T.O.R.I. has served 7,000 ex-offenders.

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