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Program helps felons find way back into society | Local News

Trouble can be hard to escape for those with criminal records. But a program in Tahlequah is working to ease the difficulties that can follow convicted felons trying to regain a place in society.

The Muskogee Bridges Out of Poverty is partnering with the Getting Ahead While Getting Out Program, designed for people with prior felony convictions who want to find stability and support themselves.

“This is a group class, and I don’t even know if that’s the right word,” said Rich Schaus, program facilitator. “You will be referred to in the class as investigators. We’re going to investigate the cause that got you in the place you were.”

Schaus said there are a couple of areas in life where people can get into trouble.

“There’s our personal choices,” Schaus said. “We make a bad choice; we did something, it happened.”

Schaus also said society is a contributing factor when people find themselves getting into trouble.

“There are things in society, and as investigators, you’re going to help us figure out those things in society that are holding people back, and – I won’t say cause crime, but definitely lean in that direction,” he said. “We can start talking about some of those and what we can do about it.”

As a group, Schaus said, the participants can make well-informed presentations to government officials or businesses wherein areas of improvement are spotted for those with a criminal history.

The course can last anywhere from 10-15 weeks. During that time, participants will come up with their dream jobs, and work toward goals to obtain that job. The group is afforded $1,000 for any job search expenses.

“Maybe you need a driver’s license, maybe you need a special certificate or an outfit,” Schaus said. “We’re going to get you that outfit.”

The group will meet typically once a week, and much of the course will follow along a…

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