CENTER, TX (KTRE) Prison or education? That's a choice some first time and repeat offenders will have in three East Texas Counties.
Friday, judges from Nacogdoches, Center, and Henderson toured the region to promote youth preservation colleges.
It was once a segregated high school. This historic building has since taken on many names. Now it's getting a second chance, just like the offenders it will house.
"We can educate and train our parolees, our first time offenders to do those jobs to save America from paying more taxes on the recidivism rate," said Bishop L.J. Guillory, Ombudsman General to Ombudsman International, Inc. a not for profit United States Government Oversight Agency.
"I see the offenders that come before me that are first time offenders and you know, they make a mistake, but I believe in giving someone a second chance," said Shelby County Judge Rick Campbell.
Offenders can earn an Associate degree, or get their GED. Students can even study a specific trade. After graduating, students will return to court, to have their records erased.
"Our students, 17 through 24. Well you can make a choice, a conscious decision to go to college for two years and get an education, become a productive citizen, rather than a burden on the state or you can go to prison," said CEO, and creator of the school's curriculum, Dr. Merilyn Session.
"Their tuition's, their housing, their food. Everything is going to be paid for by the tax dollars that are already paying for them to be on parole or be in prison," said Guillory.
"They've got the grants to get the school up and running but organizers say this building still needs help."
"We need this place cleaned up. We need it painted. We need the roofs re-done, we need some maintenance work on the building that the grants are not going to cover," said Session.
With the community behind them, organizers believe the colleges will transform lives.
"Just show them we care and that we love them and they can become productive citizens again," said J.P. of Precinct 2 for Nacogdoches County, Dorothy Tigner-Thompson.
It will help those who've done wrong, make right.
Organizers hope the first preservation college can get underway by September.
Again, they do need volunteers to get this building ready.
If you'd like to help, contact Bishop L.J. Guillory at (310) 980-0816.