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Voices From the Barren County Jail: Part Two of Our Series on Reentry Into Society

Kevin Willis

When someone goes to jail, it's often difficult for them to move on from the criminal justice system.

At the Barren County Detention Center, a group is promising to help inmates break the cycle and succeed once they return to society.

In the second of our four-part series on reentry in our region, we meet four individuals in that jail who are preparing to move on.

Pamela Stinnett: "I'm a recovering drug addict. Let's just put it that way...I have three daughters, I have a home, I have a husband, and I'm a cosmetologist."

Meanwhile, Julio Alonso grew up in New York and Connecticut. He describes himself as having little parental influence and continually dealing with drug use and jail.

Julio Alonso: "I raised a step-daughter...We sent her over here with her biological father for the summer and he ended up keeping her for three years. Social services got in contact with us saying that there's allegations on him of physical abuse. And so I stole a car, packed my family up and drove over here."

JP Ballard is a Barren County local.

JP Ballard: "I've got a 20-page background check when it comes back. I've been in and out of institutions all my life. Mostly because of alcohol."

Ballard and Alonso have had different experiences trying to get help after release. Alonso says one of the hardest parts about being a convicted felon is the lack of people willing to help.

Alonso: "A lot of times, they say the resources ain't for felons. They got resources for people with misdemeanors and people with infractions. But never for felons."

Ballard: "Not that they don't want us to succeed. But maybe that they don't care. And I can understand that, you know? It's because we messed up or we wouldn't be here."

That's one reason why the group speaking at the Barren County Jail on this day matters so much. The Resource Responders gave everyone a list of names of people who can help keep them from going back to jail.

To people like Stinnett and Alonso, who want to get back to their kids, that sheet of paper means a lot.

Stinnett: "It just gives me hope again that...I can get back to doing the next right thing and going to meetings, getting a job, getting a sponsor, going to church. All those things that I know that I gotta do."

Alonso: "And they said they got reach so I'mma see....I'mma put 'em to the test. I'm a handful, but I'm also determined. And I don't take no for an answer. And I love challenges...Especially if the prize is my kids and my sobriety, and me never having to see these walls again. Man, I hate it."

That optimism is far different from what another inmate, Darius Brooks, has seen in other jails.

Darius Brooks: "They tell you leaving the door, 'We'll see you again.' You know? I don't hear people telling you, 'I hope you don't come back.' They don't say that. Most of the time I leave the door, they're like, 'Oh, we'll see you again.' It's like a hope that you'll come back. But, when you do come back, there's no rehabilitation. Nothing."

Here's the difference he felt after seeing the Resource Responders presentation.

Brooks: "For somebody else who doesn't even know me to want better for me? It means a lot. It means more than a lot. It's Godly almost."

The day after Brooks made these comments was his first day free from supervision since 2008, when he turned 18. He seemed ready to get back to his kids.

Pamela says letting her family down has been hard. But she also says her kids are the main thing helping her stay clean.

Stinnett: "I mean, they're grown, but they still believe in me. They still got a little bit of hope."

From all the conversations that took place that day, that belief seemed to be major, especially from the corrections workers.

Brooks: "I mean, it does make a difference. Most people don't think that it does or that we're not gonna listen just because we're not responsive in classes, or whatever. But it makes a difference."

Ballard: "I think the main thing is my drive, whether I want to succeed or not...I guess I'm kinda biased because I know if I'm gonna succeed, it's on me. If I'm gonna screw up, it's on me as well."

Part three of our series on former inmates reentering society will focus on someone who has been through the system, gotten out, and now wants to help others.

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