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A Program for Fresno County Jail Inmates Works to Keep Them from Re-Offending, and Succeeds

The Fresno Bee

By Brianna Calix

The last time Melvin Smith was arrested, he was so hungry and tired that he prayed to God the authorities would keep him in Fresno County Jail instead of releasing him.

“I was tired because I missed my family,” he said. “I used drugs, and the meth kind of tore up my life. I lost my family, my girl and kids. I had a whole other secret life. … It just got real bad, and I missed my family and got burned out on it.”

Smith was arrested 14 times in 2013 for drug use, auto theft and vandalism. In Fresno County, law enforcement arrested him 41 times since 1999. “I was wild,” he said. In jail, his “celly” asked him where he saw himself in five years. Smith’s goal was to reunite with his family.

He’s been out of jail for four years, sober for five years and his probation ends in June. He runs his grandfather’s well and pump company, goes to church with Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and is about to buy a home with a pool for his family. For birthdays, he takes his family on trips to places such as Universal Studios, Magic Mountain and Disneyland.

“I would’ve never guessed my life would be where it is today,” he said.

During that last stint in jail, Smith went through the Transition from Jail to Community program. It helps inmates who are more likely to re-offend prepare for life after incarceration.

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