|L.E.A.D. Institute offers hope after prison|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Jul 30, 2012
How would you feel if the biggest mistake you ever made followed you for the rest of your life? Most former inmates struggle with the stigma associated with their past and often have difficulty getting jobs.
Troy Clarke started the National L.E.A.D. Institute in September 2009 to help these persons become productive members of society, despite their troubled pasts.
Clarke said, “All men fall but the great ones rise up. You do not drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.”
Since its inception, the institute has helped about 200 former inmates through its Project Reentry program.
Clarke says the program’s success is due in part to his ability to relate to the former inmates, since he knows first hand the stereotypes associated with being charged.
He remained on bail for five years after being accused of rape in 2004. The charges were quashed in 2009.
Within months of being exonerated, Clarke, a former social worker, police reservist and defence force marine, founded his nonprofit organization. The institute recently received grants from the Templeton and Lyford Cay foundations.
“I always had a passion for working with young men and persons who have made mistakes in life. If I didn’t have this experience behind me, of going through the court system, I couldn’t be effective with the prison work and the pre-release because all I would have been doing is talking from a book.”
Clarke’s program works in conjunction with the pre-release program at Her Majesty’s Prisons. Inmates with 18 months remaining on their sentences are eligible for the program. However, all inmates don’t go through the pre-release program, which teaches them family and job readiness skills.
“Everyone doesn’t have the benefit of the program and that’s the sad part about it,” he said.
The L.E.A.D. Institute is also focused on preventing troubled teens from ending up in prison through its Eagles Academy.
Once again, Clarke uses his life story as an example. “I never made a 2.0 GPA in high school. I got suspended but I knew my work. I was still able to go to COB. If I came from there and can do what anyone can.” Clarke is now studying for a masters degree.
He believes a lack of education is a major contributor to crime. He said more than 85 percent of inmates did not finish high school, and more than 60 percent of them only have a fifth grade level in reading and comprehension.
The L.E.A.D. Institute helps inmates achieve literacy and numeracy through a self-paced computer assisted learning program.
But most importantly, the former inmates are taught personal responsibility.
“We teach our guys society doesn’t owe you anything, so you have to prove yourself. We don’t give anybody a job – you have to earn the right to get a job. That’s our philosophy,” he said.
Clarke said the Project Reentry program helps former inmates with employment once they have successfully completed the post-release program. Some start their own businesses. Others are placed with business in the community while being monitored by the program.