Inmates graduate from program to help transition out of prison

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JEFFERSON CITY - Ten men who have only known recent life in prison are now a step closer to success once they get out.

The group are the first graduates of a new program inside Algoa Correctional Center. The program is part of a larger one called Save Our Sons, organized by the Urban Leage in St. Louis, aimed to help released prisoners get back into normal life.

Until now, the program was only offered to people already released.

J.C Dennis from Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and Algoa Institutional Activity Coordinator Meryl Miller teamed up to launch the program at Algoa.

"The Save Our Sons program does good work...I wanted to take that a step further," said Miller.

Emory Hayes was one of Friday's graduates and said he was so grateful for the opportunity to be apart of the program.

"I just gotta grow. I gotta do better. And I want to do better. Mr. Dennis and Mr. Miller are helping me do that," said Hayes.

Miller was proud these men in the pilot program changed history for anyone taking part in the future.

"In the almost 110 year history of the National Urban League, they've never had any kind of program inside of a correctional institution," said Miller.

This program is all about employment and getting the men back to their families.

"Empowering these gentlemen, we're empowering families because they're not able to just go back and feel good about themselves but be a support system to someone," said Dennis. 

That is just what Hayes plans to do.

"I want employment, to be a provider and a father that's what I want to be," Hayes said.

Miller said the course is difficult and they can be hard on the participants. Graduate Akeel Faheem Gibson-Bey agreed, but said without the push he wouldn't know the life lessons he does now. 

"I've never been on an interview before, none of that just growing up in the streets, there's a lot of things I didn't know. And when I do get out I'm most definitely going to be great," said Gibson-Bey.

The passion for what they learned showed in all the men.

"Interviewing for jobs, how to go out and find careers, not just jobs, but careers. Something you want to do and love doing," said Hayes.

Miller and Dennis hope this program serves as a model to turn into a federal program.