HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. – Hamilton County opened its brand new jail earlier this year at a cost to taxpayers of $13.5 million, and you can blame that bill squarely on overcrowding.
But there’s a program gaining momentum to help inmates get out and stay out.
"Growing up. I never had a father in my life," said one inmate. He didn’t mind telling his story if we didn’t show his face. "I, uh, have grown around a young age smoking marijuana, and eventually turned into heavier drugs."
He's battling so many charges, he’s lost count. "I’ll say 10 or 15," he said. "I’m in here for auto theft. I took possession of somebody’s vehicle just so I could make a run just to support my drug addiction."
He wanted the chance to say this time will be different. "My first awakening was when I was talking on the phone with my son... I’m just trying to do new things and become a decent member of society."
He expects to see his 6-year-old boy outside of a jail cell for good thanks to the county’s Tower Program. The program allows him to meet with a mentor who understands.
"They see the potential that I have, and I’m just trying to carry that out for when I leave this facility," he said.
Tower Program Director Kelly Gunn pairs inmates with mentors who help with everything from addiction and broken relationships to earning their driver’s license.
"If these people in this building don’t feel like anybody cares about them why would they not go back right where they came from?" Gunn said.
The Tower Program helps them find work with the taxpayers’ bottom line and safety in mind.
"Our goal is to put ourselves out of business. So we don’t want to see them back here. The more that we can do to make them successful when they leave the better and safer our community will be as a whole," said Hamilton County Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush.
Not to mention, the program is turning lives around.
"I’m starting to feel a purpose for myself. I’m starting to feel important," said the inmate. "I’ve never really felt that much of an important person. So I’m trying to be proud of myself."
So far this year, 45 inmates have joined the Tower Program. None of them have returned to jail.
It’s run 100% on donations.
If you'd like to help, contact Kelly Gunn at firstname.lastname@example.org