...even just helping one person would be a big help.
- Darren Ingram, EJP Alumnus
“EJP,” says Darren Ingram, “is a great program. It gives the individual that participates that motivation to better himself.” Darren, an EJP alumnus who was released from Danville CC in 2010 says that the most difficult part of readjusting to life in his native Chicago was the 90-day period of house arrest immediately following his release. However, despite the restrictions imposed on his movement, Darren, motivated by the education he undertook while in prison, immediately began to pursue his personal and professional goals.
At first this simply entailed regular visits to nearby Roosevelt University to practice his computer skills—with the condition that he had to return home by 6 pm.
Later, with the rules of house arrest lifted, Darren enrolled in a transitional program created by former Mayor Richard M. Daley that places formerly incarcerated men and women in jobs through the Department of Streets & Sanitation while simultaneously enrolling them in professional development courses. His hard work paid off, as Darren was later hired to work full-time at a plastics manufacturing company.
Darren says that what he most enjoyed about EJP was the open houses, which are intended to introduce potential teachers and tutors to the prison. “You can tell that [the visitors] are uncomfortable [at first] but once they meet [the students] their perspective changes,” he says. And in turn, “[EJP gave] you a chance to meet with people that didn’t work for the system,” he explains. “They’re really setting to help you make that transition back into society.”
With a good number of credits already under his belt, Darren anxiously anticipates finishing his bachelor’s degree in psychology. Additionally, he is currently completing certification to become a licensed substance abuse counselor—a project motivated by his own experiences. “There’s not a lot of substance abuse counseling centers in the neighborhood that I grew up in,” he says. “There are a lot of people addicted to drugs but no one that can help them. [. . .] I’m from the neighborhood so I’m not really scared of what’s going on, [. . .] even just helping one person would be a big help.”