On Saturday, 43 people rotated through tutorials in a basketball gym on topics like finding employment, how to open a bank account and reconnecting with family.
All the participants were wearing yellow jumpsuits. It’s Lemon Creek Correctional Center’s eighth annual Success Inside and Out event, which offers resources to soon-to-be-released inmates.
James Luckart has been in jail for more than eight years. According to court records, Luckart was convicted for three counts of assault, one for attempted sexual assault. He’s due to get out ofLemon Creek Correctional Center next February.
“I feel ready and I think I am ready, but it’s just I’m scared. It’s going to be a big test,” Luckart says.
James Luckart says Success Inside and Out makes him believe he has a chance to make it once he’s released. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
This is his first time at Success Inside and Out. He’s just come from a session on addiction and mental health. He’s gotten information about counseling once he’s out and a number to call even while he’s still in jail. Luckart thinks it’s cool.
“There’s people out there that actually care. I mean people in this environment are like, ‘Nobody cares about us. They just want to let us rot.’ But there are people that actually care, so it feels pretty good,” Luckart says.
His favorite part of the day has been hearing from former inmates who have succeeded on the outside – people who are sober, have jobs or go to school and are part of healthy relationships. These stories give him hope.
“We all have a chance to make it out there. Yeah, we’ve made some mistakes in our life but there’s a chance that we can make it out there in the community,” Luckart says.
Marcos Galindo is one of those people who made it. Most of his life was shrouded in violence, he says. He was part of a gang in California and was in and out of jail. He came to Juneau in December 2011 to visit his mother. That next April, he assaulted someone and ended up at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. While there, he took a class taught by Sol Neely, assistant professor of English at University of Alaska Southeast.
Now, Galindo is a senior at UAS and radiates positivity.
“My whole day when I wake up in the morning is about being positive, about how can I better my life and how can I better the person next to me’s life. And I learned a lot of that through Sol’s classes,” Galindo says.
So far, he’s helped four former male inmates get into UAS.
“Three of them are success stories. One of them started using again and went back. So we lost one and I took it a little personal but what can you do, right?” Galindo says. “But the three superstars we got now, they don’t need any help at anything. They’re knocking out essays on their own. They got higher GPAs than me.”
Juneau District Court Judge Keith Levy has been organizing Success Inside and Out for the past few years. The program was founded in 2006 by Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Dana Fabe for incarcerated women at Hiland Correctional Center near Anchorage. The program still takes place there.
Levy says the court system has a great interest in seeing inmates thrive when they’re released.
“People think of judges as punishing people and our role is not punishment. Judges, especially in Southeast Alaska, what we want to have happen is to recognize what gets people into jail and to deal with those things and help them not come back,” he says.
Levy isn’t sure how successful Success Inside and Out has been over the last eight years, but he says if it helps even a handful of people, it’s worth it.