A FEW MINUTES WITH … James Windom

AGE: 61

POSITION: Executive director of the Capital Area ReEntry Coalition

Since 2009, James Windom has served as executive director of the nonprofit Capital Area ReEntry Coalition, which helps former inmates adjust to society. Windom recruits people and organizations to provide services for former inmates, finds funding for the coalition, and works with community leaders to help lower the rate of recidivism. The Texas native retired from Exxon in 2009 after 20 years of service.

What are some of the services your organization offers former inmates?

Our members, including more than 70 organizations, offer substance abuse counseling and treatment, employment referrals and training, transitional housing, anger management, soft skills training and mentoring both pre- and post-release.

What do you feel is the biggest obstacle to re-entry for some former inmates?

The biggest obstacle for many is employment. Having decent-paying jobs helps to restore a sense of worth and self respect. Just as huge an obstacle to re-entry for returning citizens is the attitude of the community toward them.

How do you feel the public views former inmates trying to re-enter society?

Many are now looking for ways to get involved to find solutions that will both work for our neighborhoods and our returning citizens. This new spirit of community engagement helps the returning citizen feel more confident in their quest for a successful life. If we hold them at arm’s length or “exile” them from our churches and businesses, then we leave them nowhere to turn except the criminal underworld.

What can the penal system do to better prepare inmates to re-enter society?

James LeBlanc, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections, has done an awesome job at identifying and implementing programs that help to minimize the challenges facing our returning citizens upon release. Many offenders housed within Department of Corrections facilities have many programs to enroll in, such as: GED, Heating and Air Conditioning, automotive, horticulture, and welding. The Louisiana Sentencing Committee is working to identify barriers that hinder the success of our returning citizens as well.

What can the community do to help former inmates reintegrate into society?

To see our friends, neighbors, relatives and our communities restored starts by creating positive relationships. Be a positive life coach for someone. Provide tutoring services to aid someone get their GED. Get your church involved. Just remember, we have all made mistakes, but someone was there to help us through them.

Advocate staff writer
Ryan Broussard