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In his own words, man tells how he went from inmate to corrections officer
Thomas Schoolcraft is shown in his job as a corrections officer. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)
KEENE — Was it the money society spent to rehabilitate former prison inmate Thomas Schoolcraft that helped him turn his life around? Were there prison programs that worked for him that might have failed other convicts?
Schoolcraft said no to both.
It was an inside job for him, with the support of his family, and a leap of faith by a corrections superintendent, Richard Van Wickler, who gave him a chance.
“I’d say the biggest part was taking responsibility,” Schoolcraft said. “This makes it possible to accept your mistakes and move on. I don’t believe you can move on if you can’t see that you made a mistake.”
While former inmates also need good role models when they are released, their basic needs also must be met if they are to succeed on the outside, he said.
“Rehabilitation can’t occur when you have no place to hang your hat,” Schoolcraft said.
When inmates first leave the prison or jail, they need to set reasonable and obtainable goals.
“People need to see progress, especially offenders who often are accustomed to instant gratification,” Schoolcraft said. “They need to see that there’s a way out, a path, which often is not well lit.”
Without those things, it is easier for offenders to return to the life they knew, he said.
“None of these things are costly,” Schoolcraft said. “No one made me do them. It was a choice. I hope to show people in my situation that those options are there.”
Offenders need to give up and submit to the fact that they’re done with crime. “You need to be willing to do whatever is asked of you by the criminal justice system and society. If you want to be a rebel, you will get caught.”
There’s also a role for everyday people who have never been locked up themselves and maybe never even thought about committing a crime.
“People need to give the offenders a chance to prove themselves,” Schoolcraft said. “Opportunity needs to be there.
“Without this, I would never have come this far.”
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