Louisiana Workforce program prepares inmates for life after prison

Recidivism rate in Southwest Louisiana drops from 50% to 17% since the start of the program
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Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 9:41 PM CDT
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DeQuincy, LA (KPLC) - Law enforcement defends a workforce program for Louisiana inmates after a D.O.C. inmate escaped a few weeks ago.

Desmond Louis was working at a Lake Charles restaurant as part of a Louisiana Workforce program when he walked off the job site and later died in a shootout with police. But many people stand by this program and say it has helped many Louisiana inmates when they get out of prison.

Paul Perkins, owner of Louisiana Workforce LLC, says the program has changed many lives and helps Louisiana inmates transition from incarceration to life outside of prison.

Perkins says Louis was one bad apple among thousands of success stories.

”No doubt he made a terrible decision, because he had the opportunity to do good in life and for whatever reason, he chose to do that,” Perkins said.

Perkins says he still doesn’t understand why Louis walked off the job site a few weeks ago, because the program has been successful for so many others.

“For the most part, I mean, 90%, 95% of them do a great job. They get out and they achieve and they do really well,” Perkins said.

Beauregard Parish Sheriff Mark Herford agrees that this program is helpful for many inmates.

“This program is so successful because it gives the inmates access to make their lives better. Access to those kind of programs that they may not have access to in a lot of other facilities,” Herford said.

Cody Sturrock was in the Workforce program for the last six months of his sentence.

“They got me a job, they gave me structure, I got to come home with some money in my pocket - which is a big thing,” Sturrock said. “Because a lot of people come home with zero money, and they go right back to some of the same things that put them there.”

Sturrock adds that he was caught up in a bad crowd and didn’t realize the ramifications of his actions that put him in prison until he began the Workforce program. He says he was taught so many valuable lessons that made him want to get out of prison and remain out of prison.

Since he got out of prison, he has continued working and gone to SOWELA and LSU to get his Bachelor’s degree. Now, he is attending McNeese to get his Masters.

Sturrock says he has kept in touch with some of the people he met in the program and says many of them are successful like he is.

The Southwest Louisiana Workforce program currently has over 600 inmates. Some of them are working at restaurants, plants or other businesses.

Perkins says the program also offers other resources.

“Like AA, NA, anger management, life skills where they learn how to do checkbooks and resumes, and of course, GED,” Perkins said.

Herford said this program has helped inmates get and keep jobs, start a savings account, and ultimately stay out of the prison system.

“I think if you look at the recidivism rate and you look at their employability after they’ve been through the program and the life skills that they’ve been given while they were there.” Herford said. “I mean, I think it’s just a great, beneficial program for not only the inmate, but for our community.”

When inmates are nearing the end of their sentences, they can apply to be part of the workforce, and local businesses can also apply to have Workforce members work for them.

The inmates stay at the Phelps Corrections Facility in DeQuincy and are bussed to and from work each day.

When the program began, the recidivism rate was about 50% and it is currently down to about 17%.

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