People like success stories. But we as humans are natural skeptics and would rather assume something doesn’t work unless proven otherwise. There go the success stories! Prisoner reentry programs happen to be one of those things that people remain skeptical about. Are they worth it? Do they really work? I could do some online research and provide you with statistics regarding how much money effective reentry programs could save the prison system, or how the recidivism rate could be reduced, but, numbers are boring and hard to remember. Instead, I am going to share with you a success story that I stumbled across while perusing a website called Corrections Sentencing.
I found a blog that linked to an article in The Seattle Times. The story is about a woman named Susan Smith. Susan is the manager of the Mezza Café in Bellvue, WA. She is married with kids and owns a four-bedroom ranch-style home. What’s hard to believe is that almost ten years ago, she was arrested at gunpoint as federal agents stormed through her home. Susan and her husband Kevin Smith manufactured meth, believing their profit would be enough for the $57,000 down payment on a house. According to The Seattle Times, she was “convicted of conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance” and was released almost four years later.
The Seattle Times mentions that “typically, when inmates are released, they are returned to their home community with no money, no job and often no more skills than when they were incarcerated.” Reentry programs, like Pioneer Human Services, (the Seattle-based reentry program that helped Susan Smith and her husband) give former prisoners a chance to get back on their feet. It provides services for both federal and state prison inmates. Pioneer not only gave Smith on-the-job training, but it also provided her with housing after she was released from prison. No one else would hire or house her otherwise, due to her criminal record.
Pioneer also helped out her husband, who was released a couple of years before her. He started working at one of the restaurants where Pioneer provided food service. Today he is the food director of all Mezza cafes, which are also staffed by former inmates. Though Susan stays busy with her managerial duties, (which will soon expand to cover a second Mezza café), she still finds time to sit down and mentor other former inmates, many of whom work for her. She feels that her story might inspire them to work hard and succeed. Her husband told The Seattle Times that, “It’s all about baby steps. So many think all there is to it is just jumping into the mainstream of life. I think we’ve come a long way.”
That’s a pretty good success story.