Jose Huerta served nearly 15 years in prison. He's now on parole and says he's ready for a new life.
"Going in was difficult, thinking about what you got to go to going home, is even more difficult because you don't know what to expect," said Huerta. "Life itself is better now, I don't want to go back to that lifestyle.
That's where Jim Gardner comes in. Gardner is Huerta's mentor, with the Mentoring 4 Success program. The two met nine months ago before Huerta was released from jail. Since then, Gardner has helped him find a place to live and gain skills needed in the work force.
"We all know if they've been in for 13-20 years, when they come out they don't have computer skills," said Jim Gardner, who's day job is working with the Red Cross. "I can help them find a job by helping them learn computer skills and going in and doing online stuff to be able to apply for a job."
Gardner said Huerta found his job on his own, but has since encouraged him to work on getting his GED and his Driver's License.
"There's a lot of things we can do to help these guys instead of just saying, 'Hey, here's society, go for it,'" said Gardner.
According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, programs like this work. Reports from the KDOC show only 8.7% of inmates who have mentors when released from jail, return there within a year. Compare that to the rate of the general inmate population at 20.7%.
"If we say, 'OK, here you go, go out into society, you're on your own' they become homeless, end up back in prison and what good does that do us?" said Gardner. "It costs the tax payer more money and so what I do, I help them, I keep them out of prison, I find them a place to live, I help them find a job, that way they contribute to society rather than be a burden and go back to prison."
"You're in there and you see people coming in and out that you've done time with and it scares you because you're like, 'Why did they come back?' said Huerta.
Huerta said he vowed not to be one of them.
"I don't wish prison upon anybody, not on my worst enemy," he said. "I've got a lot of catching up to do, it takes time. I've lost so much time with my daughters and my family."
Huerta has two daughter, 17 and 18. One of which got married while he was incarcerated, something he regrets missing out on.
Governor Sam Brownback is heading to Wichita Friday to talk about the "Mentoring 4 Success" program his administration started three years ago. He will speaking at Exploration Place at 10 a.m. with Kansas Department of Correction employees as well as those involved in this mentor program either as a mentor or an inmate.
The program's intention is to help inmates return to society and become successful tax paying citizens, rather than returning to jail as is the case in many situations.
Currently, 4,139 mentors have been matched with inmates across the state. Each helps the inmate find a job, a place to live, connect with different services or treatments they may need and reunite safely with their families.
According to the KDOC, calendar year 2012 data shows that offenders who had a mentor at release, returned to jail at 8.7% 12 months post release, compared to 20.7% for other inmates.
For more information on the Mentoring 4 Success program click here.