LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Morgan Thomas - email
LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - A district judge granted shock probation for a Lufkin man who completed the state prison program's boot camp.
Justin Leslie Durham, 23, was convicted in July for his role in two convenience store robberies in August 2009.
District Judge Barry Bryan explained to Durham that statistics show that graduates of the boot camp program commit crimes shortly after completing it. Durham assured Bryan he would be an exception of the statistic.
Boot camp is a state prison program modeled after military boot camp, which lasts between 75 and 180 days.
Bryan sentenced Durham to 10 years probation and ordered him to pay a $500 fine, in addition to completing a job training program.
Durham was a witness in Joshua Handy's murder trial. Handy was accused of killing Jerrard Jernigan. Handy later pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault.
The highly-disciplined, militarized part of the Texas Department of Corrections is an option for Texas judges hoping to give young men like Durham a second chance.
"They're taught certain rules of discipline, respect and following orders and being responsible and accountable for their conduct," District Judge Paul White said.
In the courtroom, Durham answered questions in the way you would expect a soldier respond.
"It never fails when we have that hearing when they come back from boot camp every expression they state is predicated with 'sir, yes sir,' 'sir, no, sir,'" White said.
But Bryan wanted to hear more before setting him on probation.
Durham told the court, "I feel like I'm a changed a man.'
However, White says that doesn't last.
"If they're going back to the same old people, places and things that got them in trouble to begin with it doesn't last," he said.
The key to the success of programs like boot camp and drug court is community support once the offender is out.
Calling it his judicial ministry, White calls on the community to reach out to these young offenders restarting their lives.
"The only thing that becomes effective is when they're back out in the community and they have mentors and the community help," he said.
White adds there's real evidence that when everything falls into place, rehabilitation versus prison times does work, as the prison population has decreased this year for the first time in 32 years.
But it requires neighbors, churches and employers to keep men like Durham from going back to prison.