PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In mid-January, Corey Day walked out of the Adult Correctional Institutions for the first time in 13 years. He'd never seen a smartphone or signed up for health insurance and, with a robbery in his work history, he said he was unsure about his prospects outside.

Six weeks later, he has a job at a department store and an apartment to live in and insight into the changes he needs to make in his life.

"I was 17 went I went to prison," Day said. "I have no experience in the adult world. I had to learn everything an adult had to learn between 18 and 30 years old."

He said he learned those things through a program called 9 Yards, sponsored by OpenDoors, a private social service agency based in Providence that provides services and counseling to former inmates.

OpenDoors this week released a report analyzing the first three years of 9 Yards participation. It showed that inmates who volunteer to get involved are more likely to get parole, less likely to commit felonies after release and, when they do, they serve less prison time than other reoffenders.

"We knew that if we could provide the large amount of support necessary to help people overcome the many obstacles they face after prison, we could have a real impact on the revolving door," OpenDoors Director Solangel Rodriguez said. "And it is working."

Over the past three years, 9 Yards has taken in between 15 and 26 inmates annually. Participants start with six to 12 months of academic and vocational classes as well as socialization and self-image counseling while still in prison.

After their release on parole, the participants live for six months in an apartment house run by OpenDoors where they look for work while continuing to get support, counseling and drug testing. The parolees are monitored by GPS devices.

The 9 Yards program has received funds from the Governor's Workforce Board, the City of Providence, RI Foundation and the Damiano Fund.

The OpenDoors report tracked how 50 parolees who went through the program in its first three years fared in their first year out of prison, compared to 51 parolees who didn't.

In that first year after release, 27 percent of 9 Yards participants reoffended and were sentenced, versus 38 percent for those in the control group. Six percent of 9 Yards inmates were convicted of new felonies, compared to 21 percent of the control group.

When days back in prison in the first year as a parolee were totaled, the 9 Yards graduates accounted for 71 days served, while the control group inmates served 216 days. The shorter sentences for the 9 Yards reoffeders were generally the result of their new crimes being less severe than those in the control group.

"Most offenders will eventually be released from prison and it is essential that if they are released through parole that they have a strategic reentry process that addresses treatment and supervision," Parole Board Chairwoman Laura A. Pisaturo said. "To that end, the Parole Board values the collaboration it has had with Open Doors and its 9 Yards program."

Chris Souza, who had been in the house for a about a week, said he was pleased at how well the group got along. Michael Adams and other residents agreed, He said he found living with other recently released inmates helped him.

 

"You don't want to do anything that is going to embarrass the program," he said.

Angel Turbides, who recently moved out of the apartments, joked "I was worried about being in a house with a bunch of felons."

Turbides said the turning point for him was when he took a nutrition course in the ACI.

"I lost so much weight after that," he said. "It actually had an impact on my life. It changes your body and it changes your mind."

All four said they'd found it was important to stay away from the people they'd been hanging out with before they went to prison.

Adams said he found he had less in common with his old compatriots.

"We don't have the same ideas in life," he said. "They don't know what it's like to be incarcerated. They don't value their freedom."

9 Yards reentry program

Results for first year of prison release: Program participants vs. control group

Resentenced for new crimes: 27 percent for 9 Yards; 38 percent for others

Convicted of felonies: 6 percent for 9 Yards; 21 percent for others

Days served in prison: 71 days for 9 yards; 216 for others.