‘Help them see a future’: Those exiting the criminal justice system get 2nd chance at education

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansans coming out of the criminal justice system are getting a second chance to earn an education.

“The thing that people on parole need is education and then to be able to get a job that could sustain their livelihoods, a sustainable income, so for me this is really a dream come true, I’ve been waiting since 1999 for this moment,” said Judy Reusser, NexStep Unlocked program coordinator.

The program, NexStep Unlocked was created by NexStep Alliance, Goodwill Industries of Kansas and WSU Tech. Those who are on parole or probation can be referred to the program to work on their GED while also working toward a technical certification from WSU Tech.

“The catalyst for this program is Kansas Pathway to Career, legislation that was signed into law by Governor Kelly on the campus of NexStep Alliance,” said Christopher Stanyer, vice president of career services for Goodwill Industries of Kansas. “This bill frees resources and streamlines policies to serve these particular individuals who are preparing to leave the justice system and to allow them to earn a meaningful wage and experience the dignity of work once again.”

The program is free and gives those involved with the justice system the chance to gain an education and a life-sustaining income.

“This gives them a way out and help them see a future and they don’t have to continue the path their going, they can move forward with their lives,” said Emily Compton, Goodwill Industries of Kansas president and CEO.

The program started four weeks ago with its first cohort of students. A second cohort will start in the coming weeks.

“This is a game changer for them,” said Reusser. “I believe this will help the recidivism rate and we are going to keep more people out of jail and prison. Most people don’t really belong there, they just need an opportunity and a chance.”

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