PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — The return to jail of a former inmate once thought to be a success story of California’s prison realignment program is raising questions about the challenges inmates face upon release.
Ex-inmate Anthony Turner got out of prison in 2011 in the early days of realignment. For two years, he managed two Christmas tree lots in the Southland dedicated to helping former prison and jail inmates make a successful transition back into mainstream society.
But in a tragic reversal, Turner is back in jail after what fiancee Cherokee O’Dea says was a failure to combat his alcoholism.
Brian Biery, Director of Community Organizing for the Flintridge Center, said Turner’s setback is not unusual for those getting out of prison.
“In a case like Anthony’s, apparently he wasn’t honest enough with himself about his addiction issues,” said Biery, whose Flintridge Center sponsors the Pasadena Christmas tree lot and helps inmates access the services they need to be successful.
“Then potentially he didn’t go through enough of a transformation to really believe in himself and believe that he could, that he was capable of that change,” he said.
O’Dea, who now manages the Pasadena Christmas tree lot, said Turner is once again working to turn his life around.
Former inmate Tom Rudar, who also works at the lot after serving 2.5 years in prison, says finding a job is the biggest hurdle facing inmates.
“The ability to even go on job interviews when you don’t have clothes, when you don’t have transportation, when you don’t have confidence,” said Rudar. “It sets you back.”
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez, who is familiar with the Turner case, says the biggest challenge facing the prison realignment program is addressing issues of mental illness, addiction, substance abuse and unemployment which drive prisoners back to jail.
“Law enforcement and society, we are not going to enforce our way out of the issues that will face us,” Sanchez said. “So we have to have a paradigm shift, we have to start looking about how we’re going to assist individuals as they begin to return to society so that they can be on a path to success.”