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Program's early results show it is keeping young adults from returning to jail

Mayor Francis Slay, along with officials from his administration and non-profit partners, announces new resources targeted at inmates awaiting trial at the Medium Security Institution on Sept. 8, 2015.
Nassim Benchaabane | St. Louis Public Radio

A six-month-old program designed to prevent young adults from returning to jail has been wildly successful, its supporters say.

St. Louis corrections officials and social service agencies launched Prison to Prosperity in September. It targeted social services and job training to young adults locked up at the city's medium security jail known as the Workhouse and had enough funding initially to help around 100 inmates.

"We know that they'll be coming back on the streets, and that's why it's so important," said Alice Prince, the young adult workforce division manager for SLATE, the city's job training agency. "I don't want them knocking me or you back up over the head trying to steal a cell phone, trying to carjack us. We are teaching them to create a new normal for themselves, and that means a new way that's not illegal."

Of the 91 people the program has helped so far, Prince said, the vast majority are either employed or in school. One participant died, she said, and two others were re-arrested. Two others moved out of the area, and 14 got prison sentences longer than a year.

"We have moms, and sisters, and brothers and cousins saying, 'Thank you for helping us us get whomever on the right track, and then our young adults are just coming up to us and thanking us," Prince said.

The program is nearing capacity, but Prince said she's working "feverishly" to secure additional grants. SLATE is also working with Missouri State University professor Brett Garland to research whether the program is effective and what changes can be made.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.