Chandra Roberts has a student who doesn’t know how to use a computer.
The man has been in prison for more than 40 years, but will soon be released. He’s an example of why Roberts believes it’s so important to offer instruction that will help inmates acclimate the moment they’re released.
Roberts is Pike County Service Coordinator for the not-for-profit North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC). She’s teaching pre-release life skills classes at the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green.
"I want them to know what to do the second they step outside those prison walls," Roberts said. "If I can create an avenue where I can give them a little bit of a road map to get adjusted, that will help."
Roberts is a former corrections officer with sheriff’s departments in Buchanan and Pike counties, and contacted the Missouri Department of Corrections about offering life skills courses. She taught a class in June for nine Northeast inmates and is leading another for 13 offenders that will wrap up July 23. The curriculum features goal setting, decision making, resume writing, career readiness, finances, budgeting and how to rent a place to live. The cost for paper and Roberts’ time is paid through the Community Services Block Grant, one of several NECAC funding sources.
"I had one guy tell me ‘This is the most information I’ve gotten since I’ve been here,’" Roberts said. "I take them through it. They’re learning all of this again. Some of them are learning it for the first time. Hopefully, they will apply it."
Early results have been promising. Two of the 22 students have been released and one has kept in touch with Roberts via e-mail.
"He said he’d been released and was scared to death," she recalled. "That’s common. One of the reasons they go back to doing what they did before is that they don’t have the skills to make it on the outside. We want to change that."
NECAC life skills classes are not limited to prison inmates. Roberts offers the instruction regularly at the NECAC Pike County Service Center, 805 Business Highway 61 in Bowling Green. More information is available by calling her at 573-324-2207.