Seeking a second chance
By Izzy Anderson - Staff Reporter
A new group at Highline plans to help formerly in- carcerated people return to school and make a positive re-entry into their communi- ties.
The Justice Scholars Soci- ety for Change (JSSOC) plans to work with the Legislature in Olympia to
change the way formerly incarcerated individuals are treated in society once they re-enter.
The Society for Change was started at Highline last Spring Quarter.
Some obstacles they face, such as finding housing and jobs, can make life after pris- on difficult.
The group is going into prisons to contact those incar- cerated who want change in their lives.
The goal is to reduce recid- ivism and make them produc-
tive members of society. "I invite people to attend
Washington State Reentry Council meetings, and to go to Olympia for events. JSSOC helps people build a support network," Society for Change President Louis Irhig said. "People need to know that the past does not define who we are."
Irhig had some difficulty transitioning from the military back into civilian life, which played a part in his re-entry into society after his incarceration.
He reported having PTSD that was not properly treated.
Ihrig declined to elaborate on the details of his incarcera- tion.
Society for Change Vice President Ron Lytle is formerly incarcerated as well.
He went to prison for rob- bery due to a drug and alcohol problem.
"If it wasn't for the support here at Highline, I don't know where I would be. They have done so much for me," he said.
Lytle said that he has been given good guidance and advis- ing from his professors.
He has received support from his teachers in the Visual
Communications program at Highline, he said.
He has been on the honor roll for eight quarters at both Walla Walla and Highline.
Ihrig and Lytle now give back to the community that helped them change their lives by
attending events regarding re-entry for those formerly in- carcerated.
They meet with others who have changed their lives after their prison sentences.
They attend meetings at Civ- il Survival, an organization that aids formerly incarcerated indi- viduals to engage in the political arena, to change laws that pre- vent these people from success- fully re-entering society.
While these two men and many others are working hard to pursue their goals post-pen- itentiary time, it's also import- ant for the public to see them as
human beings like anyone else, Lytle said.
One of the most important things to remember when get- ting to know someone who was incarcerated, is to have an open mind, said Lytle.
"Don't judge a book by it's cover. It sounds cliché, but it's true," he said.
And many of those who did time in prison, came out a dif- ferent person, Ihrig said.
"Most of these people aren't who they were 20, 10... some- times even just five years ago," Ihrig said.
The club is in its infancy stage right now and are plan- ning regular meeting times and official contact information for Fall Quarter.
The club can be reached via email at lgihrig@students. highline.edu.