The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office presented its 18th class for its Opportunity Now Re-Entry Program for inmates during a graduation ceremony September 6, 2022 at the Sherman Walker Correctional Facility in LaPlace.

Sheriff Mike Tregre congratulated the 14 graduates on their accomplishments in the program and encouraged them to stay on the right path to rebuild their lives. “You’re going to be tested and challenged …. just do good for yourself and your family.”

Warden Michael Gil expressed the same sentiments. “This is the first step of many steps to come,” Warden Gil said. “You have to keep working hard, keep pushing forward … to be successful,” he said.

Also on hand from Opportunity Now to commend graduates were teacher Carolyn Kennedy; Kimya Babers, adult services manager; Alayna Carter, director of adult services; Tyson Brown, director of operations; and Pastor James Fletcher, XP Synergy administrative consultant.

Opportunity Now is the only re-entry program with built-in job placement, case management and follow along services in the state. The local program is a collaborative effort between the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana Rehabilitation Services and the Louisiana Department of Corrections to provide work readiness, job placement and other self-sufficiency services to qualified inmates.

Re-Entry participants are required to successfully complete three months of intensive work readiness and life skills training. The courses are designed to help inmates make better choices and to cope with a variety of issues they may face upon re-entering society.

Sheriff Tregre, who started this program within the SJSO, said he is proud of the Opportunity Now partnership with the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana Rehabilitation Services and the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

“This program has been successful,” Sheriff Tregre said, “because we have a group of people who work hard to rehabilitate inmates and help them transition into society to become productive members of society.”

Sheriff Tregre also said he is pleased with the program’s progress. “For too many years I have seen people released from our jail and no one was there to even pick them up. They would walk to the Airline Highway with no high school diploma or GED, no financial skills, no life skills, no de-escalation skills, …,” he said. “…Putting people in jail and throwing away the key never did work and does not keep our parish or communities or families safe. The key is education. Since I started this program, the statistics are overwhelmingly successful. The most satisfying number is seeing people not returning to jail. The program is working and is a major tool in keeping our parish safe.”

Since the start of the program in St. John Parish in 2014 until the present, Opportunity Now officials report that 204 inmates have participated in the program, with 177 inmates graduating; and 146 of the 177 inmates have been placed for employment. Six have been re-arrested.