SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas continues to help those that get out of jail aren’t going back in.
Last year, the Sedgwick County Jail joined in on that effort with a new re-entry program for inmates. The program gives the jail an opportunity to help the state with its goal of lowering recidivism rates — in other words, keeping a convicted individual from re-offending.
For one Sedgwick County inmate, he described his time at the jail as the “best 16 month” of his life because of the opportunity to turn his life around.
“I have been in here before for long stretches,” explained Richard Cisanaroz. “Nothing like this was ever offered to us.”
Cisanaroz is a familiar face in the criminal justice system, but will soon be released — with a new outlook on life and his future.
“There’s a better way to live, and that we can get back out there and be productive people,” he said. “Everybody makes mistakes but it doesn’t have to be forever.”
Cisanaroz is serving his longest sentence in the Sedgwick County Jail, and spends a lot of it in the kitchen. He’s one of 52 men part of the county jail’s Kitchen Inmate Worker Program, where inmates work three shifts.
The program gives inmates the opportunity to learn what it takes to make it in the food industry, gain valuable job skills and earn their food handler’s certificate.
“When you get back out on the street, you want to have as many things as you could have to get a job,” said Cisanaroz.
He added that it’s hard for offenders to find jobs after they’re released.
“For me, it was hard to get past the application because it always asks former convictions and cases and stuff,” Cisanaroz said.
County officials said offenders without job skills, navigation or support are at risk of returning to crime and prison. They hope by offering inmates resources they can reverse that cycle.
“There are opportunities inside here, and we’re trying to develop even more opportunities over the next year, to give people those abilities to come back out and be changed person,” said Capt. Jared Schechter, with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.
Kansas has cut recidivism from over 55 percent to about 35 percent since 1999.
“That’s where I want to see people,” said Schechter. “Outside the community, being a part of our community. I don’t want to see them back in here.”
As for Cisanaroz, he said he’s thankful for what the county is doing to help inmates like himself transition back into society.
“We’re either going to sit in here and do nothing and come out the exact same way with no benefits,” he said. “Or we’re going to be given a chance to work, and to help the jail, and to help the county, and to help the other inmates and to help ourselves.”
Cisanaroz is scheduled to get released on Friday. He said he is eager to start applying to jobs, and with his food handler’s certificate, going into the food industry is now an option. However, he is most looking forward to spending time with his family.