Lubbock Business Tries to Cut Back on Recidivism - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/27/07

Lubbock Business Tries to Cut Back on Recidivism

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Right now there are 152,000 men and women serving time in Texas prisons. It costs you as a tax payer $47,000 a year to house just one of those inmates. That's more than 7 billion Texas dollars spent every year on convicts, but one local business is hoping to keep those released from going back behind bars.

Around 70,000 inmates are released from Texas prisons every year. Of those, 70 percent will return. Meaning, you as a tax payer, will yet again foot the bill. But statistics show, they are more likely to stay out if they have a job.

"A lot of these men in this building want to work." Meet Texas inmate Randy Alfred, "They want to get out and do right, and they want to get out and stay out, and I know that because I am one of them."

Alfred is currently serving time at the Neal Unit in Amarillo for lying on a credit application, "Work is only going to be an avenue to stay out."

That's something Alfred found difficult to find the first time he was released from prison saying the stigma of a felony barred him from getting a job. Now, the second time in TDCJ, Alfred has learned something the hard way, "You can come back here quite easily."

But luckily for Alfred and the 70,000 other Texas inmates who are paroled each year, one man wants to make sure they don't return.

Carter MacKenize started BoDart Recruiters Incorporated, or B.R.I., two years ago. Based in Lubbock, B.R.I. is one of only a few private-companies in the nation allowed inside prisons to interview inmates for potential jobs. Their goal is to cut back on the number of re-offenders in Texas.

"What we do is, we look at what type of jobs skills you came in with and maybe some job skills you've picked up since you've been a guest of the State of Texas and then we place you in jobs wherever you are going all over the state," MacKenzie told the group of inmates listening attentively during their interview. There's not a coat and tie in sight. All applicants are clad in a distinct white uniform of elastic-waist pants and pull-on shirts.

"We don't deal with sex offenders. We don't deal with anybody that's been on America's Most Wanted. There's a few other crimes that we're not interested in helping them expand their career," MacKenzie said.

From there it's a one-on-one job interview. For many, it's their first.

"When I ask why you are incarcerated please tell me the truth. And there's another side to that too, we do additional background checks; so it does you no good to lie," MacKenzie tells the group. 

There are great trade and vocational opportunities inside the prison system, like the computer information class Alfred attends.

"I've learned to do Word program, Power Point program. I've learned a lot since I've been here. A lot," Alfred said.

And that's helped B.R.I. place thousands of released inmates into jobs with 70 percent of them still in place after six months. "These people are talented, they have skills and they are certainly capable of contributing to society, paying taxes just like everybody else," MacKenzie said.

From drilling to wielding, truck driving, manufacturing, and construction, B.R.I. has contracts all across the state with companies needing skilled laborers.

"If we can have these people stepping into, coming back into a job, we feel that we're increasing their chances of them not going back into prison, thus reducing a burden on the tax payers of this state," MacKenzie said.

"If you have a job, you have somewhere to go, it will help you. It'll help me, I know," Alfred tells NewsChannel 11.

"We're helping some people that will hopefully get back on the right track and not return to TDCJ," MacKenzie said.

Right now B.R.I. is only focusing on inmates in Texas prisons, though they have been asked to bring their program inside the federal system. But a final decision hasn't been made.

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