New Norfolk program aims to keep repeat offenders out of jail

Inmate Jerome De’Berry smiles as he holds a certificate received after completing a 12-week program that seeks to help repeat offenders from returning to jail.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Virginia Attorney General’s Office is teaming up with the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office to target inmates who are most likely to be repeat offenders.  It’s the first program in Virginia designed on targeting that segment of the inmate population.

“Just by planning and determination you could change lives,” said Dean Rolle, a re-entry case manager.

Hope doesn’t come easy when your surrounded by barbed wire.

“When you’re trying to make a change in your life it can be hard,” added inmate Eugene McNeil.

The Attorney General’s Office received a $750,000 federal grant for the three-year program.

“You’ve guys have all been incarcerated and now everybody is going home,” Rolle told the inmates.  They will all be released within the next four months.

The first call was made up of six inmates.

“That in itself is an honor,” said inmate Jerome De’Berry.

They go through a 12-week-long class, meeting twice a week for three hours..

“This is uncharted territory,” Rolle added.  “This is something that has never been done before.”

In the past they would be castoffs.  Inmates thought of as unchangeable, until now.

“It’s not like you go back home and everything is just like you left it,” Rolle said.  “You’re labeled as an ex-offender.”

The six randomly chosen for the program have spent years coming in and out of jail.

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” McNeil added.  “It’s just that I made a wrong choice or a wrong thought.”

The inmates were given certificates serving as a reminder to make better decisions.

“You’re one thought away from being us chasing places and that’s why I learned,” McNeil said.

“I know how to think before I react to certain situations,” added inmate Jermaine Smith.

Soon these inmates will be back home and they say this time will be different.

“When I get back out there, the stress that I was going to be under won’t be as stressful,” De’Berry said.

“If you think and you choose to do what’s right then you don’t come back,” McNeil added.  “If you chose to do what’s wrong or step out of line you just set yourself up for a one-way ticket back,” McNeil added.

ODU students will also pitch in.  They will follow the inmates who complete the program for the next three years to keep tabs on how they are doing.

Rolle tells 10 On Your Side he is getting ready to start a second class at the Norfolk jail.