Program keeping prisoners from returning to jail shows success

An old ice cream factory in Providence has a new life trying to give new lives to ex-convicts.

It's the home of Open Doors, a program that tries to help former prisoners become model citizens.

"I feel like if we help one person, that's one less person that's going to go into the criminal justice system," said Sol Rodriguez, executive director of Open Doors.

About 1,000 former prisoners pass through the program here every year, learning job skills, sobriety and that there may be a positive future ahead of them.

"Someone like myself who was incarcerated for six years, you pretty much don't have anything when you come back into society," said Earl Williams, a former convict.

The program has had enough success that it brought U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements to a roundtable on Monday to support the program.

"If we save one or 2, that's basically turning someone's life around. They and our community deserve that," Rodriguez said.

Williams, who has only been out of prison for three weeks, knows the program will give him a chance to keep his promise to never go back to jail.

"You got to be exposed to new and better things. Without that, you just return to what got you here in the first place," he said.

It's unclear how many ex-convicts who have passed through the four-year-old program have remained out of prison, and whether it's better than the usual rate of returning to prison.

However, those involved and those who've been through the program have no doubt as to its effectiveness.

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