Returning Offenders-Reentry from Prison

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Len Sipes: Hi and welcome to the radio version of D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. Every year the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency notes re-entry month where we talk and discuss the individuals coming out of prison and coming back to the District of Columbia. About 2,000 every year, come back out of the federal prison system back to the District of Columbia. However, there are over, my heavens, 600,000 individuals coming out of prison back into communities throughout the United States, both from state institutions and federal institutions. So we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of individuals coming back to communities throughout the country. Research tells us that the vast majority of these individuals are clustered within certain pockets, high crime areas of most cities. The talk about this whole issue of re-entry, we have Eddie Ellis and Eddie is currently under the supervision of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Eddie served time for manslaughter back in 1991. In August of 2006, Eddie came out under community supervision. He’s been out for about two and a half years. Now Eddie has done extraordinarily well and we’ve talked to Eddie in the past. He is currently employed. He is currently working on a documentary on re-entry. He’s currently volunteering as a mentor to other offenders and he’s also involved with various faith groups in terms mentoring to offenders and Eddie Ellis welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Eddie Ellis: Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes: Okay Eddie. You’re gonna suddenly become out of the 650,000 individuals who are released from the prison system every year. You’re suddenly gonna become all 650,000 because when people think about, and they hardly ever hear from offenders.

Eddie Ellis: True.

Len Sipes: Nobody ever hears from offenders. I don’t care what television show you watch, what radio show you listen to, what newspaper you read; the offender’s individual voice is not represented. So you’re gonna be representing 650,000 human beings. I know that’s impossible. But as you well know and as you can well imagine there is a reluctance. People get scared, people get worried, that offender, that person, shouldn’t that person be in prison for the rest of their lives. Why is that person being released? What do we do to assist that person or supervise that person while on release? So how has it been? You’ve been out on the street for a year and a half.

Eddie Ellis: Well, for me personally, it’s been a roller coaster ride, but it’s been positive overall because I had the support of my family. Some positive CSO’s in my life.

Len Sipes: And the CSO’s. Explain that for the public.

Eddie Ellis: Probation officers.

Len Sipes: Okay. And in D.C.

Eddie Ellis: In D.C.

Len Sipes: We call them Community Supervision Officers and many places throughout the country call them parole and probation agents.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Go ahead please.

Eddie Ellis: My family has been very inspirational to me staying strong and doing what I have to do to stay out of the street. But also it’s me. I want to do right this time. I don’t want to go back to jail. You know I know people who think that a lot of us can’t change, but people do change.

Len Sipes: Now, let me talk about these statistics and the statistics indicate that two-thirds of all people, this is the Department of Justice data, national study, that two-thirds of all offenders released in a given year were rearrested for felonies and for serious misdemeanors. 50% of all of those offenders released in terms of a three year study went back to prison. So the odds aren’t very good, so that’s one of the things that people are dealing with right up front. All they ever hear are the negatives in terms of the television reports. You cannot sit and watch the evening news without 3 or 4 or 5 horror stories of somebody doing something terrible. One of the things that we advocate here within this agency is that it’s got to be supervision but at the same time it’s got to be another chance. Training, job training, drug treatment, mental health treatment, and people say well why are you putting so much money in terms of treating offenders? And our sense is that unless you provide these services the odds are that the person is gonna get in trouble again. Am I right or wrong?

Eddie Ellis: You’re right. You’re right and I think for me the programs are very important for these men and women that’s coming out of prison because if they don’t have these programs, 9 times out of 10 most of them will fail. But with the programs in place, you still are gonna have people that fail, but you will have more people that can do right by the program. But you can’t just have any programs out here and just think everybody gonna succeed off 1 or 2 programs. I think it should be more funded in to programs.

Len Sipes: Now there’s a good degree of research now from reputable research agencies and there are entire states that are basically revamping their correctional systems. What they’re saying is, and I’m not quite sure they’re doing this from a humanistic point of view. I think they’re doing this from a monetary point of view. I think they’re trying to hold down the prison budgets more than anything else. But what they’re saying is, is that they’re looking at it from terms of a formula. That if we provide drug treatment, if we provide vocational counseling, if we provide halfway housing, if we do this, if we can do that, we can reduce recidivism or the amount of people going back to prison from parole and probation, we can cut it by 20% to 25% and that will keep us from building a new prison. There’s a wide variety of states who are taking that philosophy. So evidently there is some sense that these programs work to reduce recidivism. There’s research that says that and a lot of states now are beginning to approach it from that point of view. Provide services and a lower recidivism rate. But you’re right. Even if a person gets this stuff, there’s no guarantee that they’re gonna turn away from a life of crime.

Eddie Ellis: No. No it doesn’t mean that. That’s like saying just because somebody lives in the suburbs they’re not gonna break the law and people in the suburbs break the law just like somebody in the city. But you know so my thing is get the programs where they’re supposed to be and I feel it’s like a school system. If the students are failing and you have bright students, evidently the teachers are not teaching right and that’s how I feel with these programs. If you don’t have the people in these programs that’s doing what they’re supposed to do to help these people make it through these programs, get them help that they need, you need to get them out and replace them with people that know what they’re doing.

Len Sipes: Why, I need to follow that. What’s going on? You’re talking about staff, people who staff the programs.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. I’m talking yes.

Len Sipes: Are not as they should be.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. You have a lot of programs where a lot of people are not putting their foot down doing what they’re supposed to do. You know, they’re just taking the job as just a job. This is more than just a job when you dealing with somebody that’s,

Len Sipes: Well tell me specifically what they’re doing wrong.

Eddie Ellis: Well, specifically I think a lot of them don’t take their job serious when they’re dealing with a lot of these people because a lot of these people come home from prison with mental problems that people don’t recognize and that’s why I think a lot of people failing.

Len Sipes: All right.

Eddie Ellis: You know you got more citizens probably on the street that take so called medication for depression and other things than a lot of people that’s come home from prison. So evidently these things are needed if people on the street are taking these things.

Len Sipes: So, they’re not taking it. The staff people, according to you and your experience, they’re not taking it all that seriously. They’re not caring enough? Is that it? They’re not insistent enough, they’re not demanding enough? What?

Eddie Ellis: All I think all of the above, but I’m not gonna say all of them because the programs that I’ve been through I’ve found some people who are very dedicated in doing what they do.

Len Sipes: Is the individual attitude that the employee of these places brings with him or her, is that what makes it or breaks it?

Eddie Ellis: That, yeah that plays a big roll in it.

Len Sipes: I understand that the individual offender has got to make up his or her own mind as to whether or not they’re willing to cross that bridge.

Eddie Ellis: Of course. Of course.

Len Sipes: I mean that’s number 1.

Eddie Ellis: Of course.

Len Sipes: So we’re not gonna argue that point.

Eddie Ellis: No. No.

Len Sipes: But I’m just intrigued. So the person who comes and who works with offenders that has that sense of dedication, has that sense of enthusiasm, the folks who are getting this treatment program are drawn to that person and like that person. Is that it?

Eddie Ellis: Yes. I think that plays a big role because I think it’s people that they can relate to. They don’t necessarily mean if somebody’s been incarcerated like them, it can mean somebody that they relate to. You know. You respect me.

Len Sipes: All right.

Eddie Ellis: You know I can talk to you.

Len Sipes: All right. So it gets back to a issue of respect.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. I understand that because I’ve been talking to a offenders for decades now and I remember when I was working for the State of Maryland and the public safety secretary wanted me to work as an interface with the employment people and because the offenders were complaining that they were being disrespected. There were long lines. Nobody wanted to deal with them. Nobody wanted to touch them. Nobody, you know, it was just if you’re an offender, you’re going to give me a hard time so I automatically have a negative attitude toward you. Correct? Is that what we’re talking about?

Eddie Ellis: Yes. Have a lot of people like that, but I’m not gonna say all people because you do have a lot of people that work in these programs that are very dedicated people.

Len Sipes: Right. But I’ve heard it from other offenders that they’re mistreated when they go in and try to get program services.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: Not only in the District of Columbia, I certainly heard it in Maryland.

Eddie Ellis: In general. I think it’s in general. I’m not gonna say in the District of Columbia myself, but I’m gonna say in general all over, when you get people that’s come home from prison, a lot of times we get treated like trash.

Len Sipes: Now, why is that? I’m mean is it the offenders fault because of the image that they project, is it the person helping them, is it their fault? I mean we’re dealing in stereotypes. I mean we’re not even getting to the larger society. We’re talking about the offender themselves and the people who work with them. I mean there’s a certain point when we have to get to the images and the perceptions of the larger society. But, you know, there’s a lot of negativity in any offender who, in a lot of offenders who come out of the prison system. They project a sense of toughness that in many cases is masking nothing more than extreme vulnerability. That’s my point of view. I don’t know if you agree with that. I think that the tougher you are and the more you try to put on the act, it’s an indication that the more vulnerable you are. But that’s just my opinion. I’m not asking you to buy into that. But there’s a lot of people that come out there who feel that they’ve got to put on the front.

Eddie Ellis: Well, I’m not necessarily gonna say it’s a front with a lot of people, but when you live in a certain environment for so long,

Len Sipes: It rubs off.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. It becomes a part of you.

Len Sipes: All right.

Eddie Ellis: It becomes a part of you. It’s like you’re in the military.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: You know. When you’re in the military you’re gonna act a certain way.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: And when you get out of the military, you’ve been in the military for 5, 10 years, you’re gonna get out and you gonna still act in certain ways that you act when you was in the military.

Len Sipes: You’ve made a successful transformation and I’ve interviewed and known thousand of offenders who have made that successful transformation from prison to a crime free, drug free lifestyle. They’re now parents; they’re now taking care of their kids; they’re now gainfully employed; they’re now taxpayers instead of tax burdens. Now, but nobody ever hears that message and that message is sort of personified in the fact that you’re sitting by these microphones right now. I mean, it’s for a lot of guys it’s very difficult to cross that bridge from prison to the straight and narrow.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. It’s not as easy as a lot of people think. But it can be done. It’s the dedication first with the person. It’s what you want for yourself and then everything else comes.

Len Sipes: Is that a prerequisite? Because everybody tells me it is. In other words, it’s got to be there. You’ve got to decide for yourself.

Eddie Ellis: Of course. Of course. I don’t care what my probation officer say, it’s what I want to do with my life.

Len Sipes: All right. So from the get go, you come out of prison, you’ve already made the decision.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: All right.

Eddie Ellis: Years before I came home, I made the decision I have to separate myself from old friends. I have to separate myself from certain things because the changes I was trying to make wouldn’t have been healthy for me or my life to stay connected with them.

Len Sipes: And what did you do? So you came out of prison and what happened.

Eddie Ellis: I came out of prison. I want to the RC Center.

Len Sipes: Okay and for the public describe what RC is?

Eddie Ellis: It’s a resanction center and it’s basically a drug treatment program, but it allows you to sit down and inventory your life for 28 days.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: Give you mental health, they do a mental health assessment on you and they basically help you put your life together in certain ways.

Len Sipes: All right. And then you go out to residential drug treatment.

Eddie Ellis: No. I went to the transitional.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Okay you went to a transitional.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. I went to a transitional which was very helpful because going to jail at 16 and coming home at 31, that’s a lot of years missed and the transitional house really help because it slowed things down for me and when I came out of the transitional house my family, my friends were there for me. I was very confused about a lot of things. I didn’t know how to ride the bus, the subway. I don’t know how to drive. So it was a lot of things that I had to learn, you know being around people. People moving fast and it’s a lot of things, but you know. By the grace of God and me wanting to do right and my support, I’ve been okay.

Len Sipes: All right. You made up, I’m gonna take these one at a time. You made up your mind before coming out of prison and you have family support when you came out of prison.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. I’m gonna guess and say that most folks don’t have that family support coming out of prison. I’m not gonna ask you to agree or disagree with me necessarily from a research point of view, but there’s a lot of that offender in many cases has burnt a lot of bridges.

Eddie Ellis: True.

Len Sipes: And getting that family and friend support at times is tough.

Eddie Ellis: True.

Len Sipes: And living at home often times comes with ultimatums that you got to do this, you got to do that and if you screw up your out of here.

Eddie Ellis: True. But sometimes those things need to be there.

Len Sipes: Yeah. I agree.

Eddie Ellis: You know cause if you burnt bridges or put yourself in certain situations where your family don’t want to be in those situations, you must do that.

Len Sipes: Did they embrace you with open arms?

Eddie Ellis: Yes. For the most,

Len Sipes: Or did they set rules or both?

Eddie Ellis: No. Living with my mother, it’s gonna be rules everywhere.

Len Sipes: All right.

Eddie Ellis: You know, I’m a grown man I can do what I want, but I’m gonna respect my mother’s house.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: You know. I’m gonna respect my mother’s house. But me coming home and getting close to my family again. So of them I’m not to close to no more.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: You know I had a bond with some of them before I went to jail, but since I came home we don’t have no bond with some of my family.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: So.

Len Sipes: So, you’re out on this, you come out of prison, you’re with your mom and it’s difficult. You just mentioned about the subway, just doing the regular things in life and you feel apart in many ways from the world around you.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: And yet at the same time you’re being told by a community supervision officer, by my agency, to go do this, do that, you have to be urine tested, you go to the reentry center, and so there are a lot of rules and regulations.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: How’d you adapt to all that? Did you rebel? Did you kick back? Did you go along with it? Were you angry about it?

Eddie Ellis: Well, when I first came home, I was released to the street. No halfway house or anything.

Len Sipes: Oh, okay. So when you came out you were released to the street.

Eddie Ellis: But when I checked in downtown at the court building, it was switched to make me go to the resanction center before I can go to transition.

Len Sipes: All right.

Eddie Ellis: And I was frustrated, I was real frustrated at first because I didn’t understand why.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: You know, but.

Len Sipes: Nobody does by the way.

Eddie Ellis: Yeah.

Len Sipes: They just want to spend their time on the street.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. So, but after going through it, even though I never had a drug problem, being in that setting really helped me understand other people’s habits and the way they live their life and stuff that they went through. So, I gained a lot in those 28 days being there. So, I’m really thankful that I went through it.

Len Sipes: How long did it take you to get a job?

Eddie Ellis: Well, my uncle, I worked with my uncle when I first came home. He do home improvement.

Len Sipes: All right.

Eddie Ellis: So I worked with him for about 6 months and then my cousin started a little landscaping thing where we cut grass in the summer and that was very helpful.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Eddie Ellis: You know I work with school emergency clean up, so I had several jobs. But when I went to jail I didn’t have any work history, so now I’m basically trying to build a history for myself. A path for myself as far as the mentoring thing, because that is what I really want to do.

Len Sipes: Well, I want to go onto the mentoring thing, but I want to stick with you for a while. But you’re not drug testing positive because the bulk of our folks do drug test positive and we have to take action. We have to either sanction them or put them on global position or satellite tracking. We’ve got to get them in drug treatment. I mean there’s a whole bunch of things that you have to do for them from an enforcement point of view and a treatment point of view and in many cases we don’t have the money to treat everybody so they’ve got to be referred to various agencies and hopefully they get drug treatment. But that didn’t happen to you. You’re testing negative.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. I’m testing negative.

Len Sipes: Now, what is it about you that’s so different from so many other folks who just want to climb back into that bottle or want to just shoot up once again or just want to snort again?

Eddie Ellis: Well, when I was young I only smoked marijuana like 2 or 3 times and drunk a beer here and there.

Len Sipes: So you didn’t have that dependence coming out of the prison system.

Eddie Ellis: No. No.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Eddie Ellis: And that’s what happens with a lot of people. Those hard drugs really bring people down.

Len Sipes: Oh, absolutely.

Eddie Ellis: Those hard drugs really bring people down.

Len Sipes: That’s why we have the problems that we have.

Eddie Ellis: Yeah.

Len Sipes: The massive problems that we have. Alright, but your interacting with a lot of people?

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: And have you been interacting with people who still in the game or a part of the lifestyle?

Eddie Ellis: No. I separated myself from the people because what I trying to do with my life. You know, I’m trying to do right and I can’t

Len Sipes: So you stayed away from people who are gonna bring you down.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: Who did you hang with?

Eddie Ellis: Well, on the street?

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Eddie Ellis: Well, I hang, right now I just hang on my brothers, my cousin, basically family.

Len Sipes: Okay. So it’s family.

Eddie Ellis: You know, I’ve got a friend that I grew up with. When she come in town I be with her all the time, but other than that, I don’t hang out with anybody outside of my family.

Len Sipes: We’re talking with Eddie Ellis and Eddie is currently in the supervision of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We’re using Eddie as sort of a proxy, if you will, for the well over 600,000 individuals who come back out of the prison system throughout the United States. They come back and the statistics say that they ordinarily don’t do all that well and I wanted Eddie to come in today because Eddie is gonna represent the literally hundreds of individuals that I’ve gotten to know first hand who are doing well. They’re not falling back into drugs, they’re not falling back into crime and again one of the reasons why I have you here by the microphone is to figure out what the difference is between you and them. We say 50% go back to prison, but 50% don’t.

Eddie Ellis: That’s true.

Len Sipes: So, you know, out of the 600,000 if you want to split it right down the middle, 300,000 are going back to prison but 300,000 are still in the community.

Eddie Ellis: Yeah and to me that’s a good start, but it should climb. I hope it climb. But I really think it depends, like I said, depends on the person. A lot of times it depends on the support that the people have. A lot of times it depends on the programs these people go into. It’s a lot of different things that goes into being successful. But first of all, I think it depends on who you are and what you want.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Eddie Ellis: If you don’t want to be successful, you’re not gonna be successful.

Len Sipes: Well, I’ve heard that from everybody I’ve ever talked to.

Eddie Ellis: You know, but if you want to be successful, it may be hard, but you can do it.

Len Sipes: I was told a long time ago that alright, fine, a lot of us aren’t ready. Fine. A lot of us aren’t, but please be ready when we’re ready.

Eddie Ellis: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Please have the programs in place, please help us out when we say we are dying to get out of this. I’m sick of tired of being sick and tired. How many heroin addicts have told me that in the 40 years that I’ve been within the system? I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Be ready for us when we’re ready for you and so at this point we’re ready for you. I’m sorry, you’re ready for us. Are we ready for you?

Eddie Ellis: Yeah.

Len Sipes: I mean that’s the question. Is the larger criminal justice system, are the social service systems really ready for ex offenders?

Eddie Ellis: Well, like I said

Len Sipes: Be honest now.

Eddie Ellis: I’m gonna be honest. I don’t think there’s enough programs out here that targeting the masses of people that’s coming home, even when they are home and it’s said because a lot of people give people. That’s like somebody on heroin. They give them meth, another drug to help them get off a drug. But what about the other thing they may need for the mental health part? So you can give a person something to get off drugs, but mentally and emotionally, if their body and their mind is not following, they’re gonna continue to do the same thing.

Len Sipes: By the way, there’s new research from the Department of Justice that indicates that 50% are self diagnosing themselves. This is not an official mental health diagnosis, but they are basically saying I need mental health services. That’s a huge number, 50%.

Eddie Ellis: But that’s good though. But see when a lot of people think about mental health, they always think about somebody being,

Len Sipes: Schizophrenic

Eddie Ellis: Yes. And that don’t always have to be the case.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: You know it’s a lot

Len Sipes: You could just be strung out by life

Eddie Ellis: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Outrageously depressed

Eddie Ellis: Yeah.

Len Sipes: But you’re still at that stage of the game extremely vulnerable to climb back into that bottle, put that needle back in your arm and do something stupid.

Eddie Ellis: Of course. Of course. And I really think going back to the struggles that I had, it times I want to fill applications out and go to job sites and certain job companies said they have a 7 year background check.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: I fill out the application, took the urine for them, passed the urine and when I came back, they denied me, but my charge is 15 years old.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: So this is the type of stuff that we deal with. Your application says 7 years, but you went back 15.

Len Sipes: But aren’t they simply afraid by everything they see on television and read in the newspaper. I mean is that fear unreasonable?

Eddie Ellis: In a lot of way it’s not, but sometimes people over hype this fear.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Eddie Ellis: You know and that’s,

Len Sipes: You know, that’s not a bad way of putting it. It’s a matter of putting it into perspective.

Eddie Ellis: Yeah. Yeah. Yes it is because my thing is this. In general you can walk across the street and get hit by a car.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: But does that mean everyday on that corner somebody’s gonna get hit by a car.

Len Sipes: Alright.

Eddie Ellis: No. You know, so my thing is, you know, people gonna feel the way they feel, but I just need the community to know it may not be your family member, but whether you want to believe it or accept it, it’s still your problem.

Len Sipes: You as an individual anywhere in any metropolitan area in this country is within a 5 minute drive of a minimum of 1,000 offenders.

Eddie Ellis: I didn’t know that.

Len Sipes: People who have done time.

Eddie Ellis: Yeah. I didn’t know that.

Len Sipes: No, no, I mean a 5 minute drive in any part of a metropolitan area. I mean the people do not understand how many people have been caught up on the criminal justice system. It’s not something you can escape. It’s not something that you can walk away from. But, people have this, and I understand it and you understand it, this fear of somebody coming out of the prison system.

Eddie Ellis: Yeah. But what about the ones that’s not in the prison system, the ones robbing you for all your money, the big corporate companies? So, my thing is this, don’t always think that people coming out want to continue to do the same thing. You don’t understand why these people through what they went through or why they did what they did. And I’m not making no excuses for anybody.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eddie Ellis: You know. I made some bad choices in my life. They weren’t mistakes. They were bad choices. So does that mean I can’t change? No it doesn’t mean that.

Len Sipes: Or does it mean that you should have been stuck in a bottle in a corner of D.C. for the rest of your life or does that mean you should be in a mental institution for the rest of your life. And does that mean I should support you with my tax dollars for the rest of your life. No. I don’t want to support you. Nobody wants to support you. Everybody wants to see you be a tax payer instead of a tax burden. So if they want that tax payer instead of a tax burden, they’re gonna do what a lot of states are now doing throughout the country and that is to provide the programs. That’s my assessment. That’s my two cents.

Eddie Ellis: But that would be smart. That would be one of the smartest things to do. And I just hope that more programs, you know, be built in the future. And I used tell people all the time, I want to speak out for men and women that’s still incarcerated because there’s a lot good men and women that’s behind those walls.

Len Sipes: If you had, and again nobody’s arguing do the crime, do the time. Nobody, you need to be incarcerated; you need to be incapacitated; you need to be out of society if you’ve done something that serious, nobody’s arguing that. Okay. So and you agree, neither one of us are gonna go there. But, if there were mental health programs in prison and in the community, if there were complete job training programs in the prison system and out in the community, if there was drug treatment in the prison system and out in the community, if there was anger management in the prison and out in the community and if you had someplace to go to if your housing arrangements just didn’t work out and for a lot of guys whose housing arrangements just don’t work out, those are the basic programs that I can think of. How much of an impact would that have in terms of people not going out there and committing extra crimes and that means fewer prisons, that means fewer burdens on taxpayers. Would it be a significant reduction in crime, a significant reduction in recidivism if we had all those programs in place?

Eddie Ellis: I would hope so. I would hope so. I think a lot of people would do better than there is now, but I’m not sure. But I would say this. If the programs was there in the prisons as well because people think all the programs just need to be in society. You need to have more programs in prison to allow people to change why they in their situation.

Len Sipes: Alright.

Eddie Ellis: Because a lot of times we come out of that situation, everything is moving fast when we on the inside.

Len Sipes: In the final minutes of the program, now you’re doing volunteer work. You’re actually mentoring other offenders.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now are you doing that as part of the faith based initiative?

Eddie Ellis: I’m doing that because I asked to do it.

Len Sipes: Okay. But are you with the faith based initiative as part of that?

Eddie Ellis: Not yet.

Len Sipes: Not yet.

Eddie Ellis: Not yet.

Len Sipes: You’re thinking about doing it.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. I’m taking the class this month.

Len Sipes: So you’re working with offenders at one of our field offices.

Eddie Ellis: Yes.

Len Sipes: What are you telling them?

Eddie Ellis: Well, I basically explain to them what I had to do to change my life and certain choices and I tell them I know it’s hard to separate yourself from your friends and people that you’ve been connected with and felt a bond with all your life, but you’ve got to find out what’s more important to you, your friends, your freedom, and your life or the bug.

Len Sipes: They buy into it.

Eddie Ellis: Some of them did. I spoke to 2 young guys, they said they’re doing good right now, so that was a plus for me. A spoke to a young lady and she’s doing good. So that’s a plus for me. So, yeah I’m doing good with it. I like it.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Eddie Ellis: I think I’m getting through to people.

Len Sipes: Yeah, it is really interesting to listen to the stories of other people in terms of their own struggles and in terms of their own beliefs in terms of, you know, what’s gonna happen when they get on the outside. I mean all you think about when you’re in prison is getting out but, the stark reality of being out, are two different things.

Eddie Ellis: True. But my situation, I wasn’t really concerned about getting out too much, I was concerned about surviving first of all and preparing myself before I get out. You know mentally, emotionally, educationally, I was trying to prepare myself to do what I needed to do to be successful when I get out.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Eddie Ellis: You know so when I did get out, I have a better chance of being successful out here.

Len Sipes: So you toughened yourself mentally. You knew what you were gonna encounter when you got on the outside. You knew what the score was. You knew what you had to do.

Eddie Ellis: Yes. Through talking to other people that was on violations and things like that and I just made my mind up that I knew it was gonna being hard for me, I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy, so I got to deal with it and just toughen up.

Len Sipes: Eddie, we’re at the end of the program. I want to thank you for being here.

Eddie Ellis: Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes: And I want to offer the opportunity for you to come back anytime.

Eddie Ellis: I would love that.

Len Sipes: And we’ll talk about this and talk about the whole process of people coming out of the prison system and readjusting to society. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been talking with Eddie Ellis. This is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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