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La Porte jail work program changing lives

LA PORTE, Ind. - The La Porte County jail’s inmate work program has changed nearly one thousand lives in two decades—at least in part thanks to one man who retired this month.

“We feel that we are doing exactly what corrections should be doing, and that is preparing them for life after incarceration and giving them the skills that they need to succeed,” said La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd.

Bobby Blair started the jail’s county work program in 1995 to help transition inmates back into society.

“Bob was a big impact with me. He’s just a down-to-earth person. He’s not judgmental,” said one program graduate, Jeremy Hampel.

“When people start here, we start, we don’t judge their past. We start on day one and go forward,” said the now retired work crew supervisor, Bobby Blair.

The hope is that inmates who go through the La Porte jail’s County Work Program, or CWP, never have to wear the orange shirts that say ‘Inmate Crew Worker’ again.

“This is a jail work program and we started it, I started it in 1995. And we basically take people who are incarcerated and we give them the opportunity to work and we do a lot of community projects,” said Blair.

One of those projects was building a K-9 training facility from the ground up.

“It gave me, I guess that sense of starting to work again and having a work ethic. Bob’s a hard-working person, and you know when you worked with him, you worked with him,” said Hampel.

“It’s more like a re-entry program. It helps you get your work ethic back to get to society and to communicate with people and more or less to put to the community,” said a current work program inmate, Dino Hopper.

“Many have told us that before they came to this crew, they never had a male that said anything positive to them. That never took the time to instruct them, to teach them a trade or tell them they’re valued to society, and Bobby has always done that,” said Sheriff Boyd.

Bobby’s done that in a way that’s helped the program achieve an extremely low recidivism rate, about 10%, meaning only one in ten CWP inmates end up back behind bars.

That’s about one-fourth of La Porte County and the state’s rates.

For a comparison, most of the county jails in northern Indiana hover around a 40% recidivism rate.

“It kind of slowly released me back into the world, which was awesome. You know, just didn’t get dumped one day from a jail cell back into society,” said Hampel.

Bobby has helped nearly one thousand inmates make that transition.

“You know, when they say good job, that means a lot to us,” said Hopper.

Standing between one success story and a soon-to-be one, Bobby says only one word could describe that moment.

“Blessed actually, that I could help a little bit,” he said.

The sheriff says they find funding for the program in different areas of the budget, so it doesn’t end up costing them a significant amount of money.

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