INDIANAPOLIS—Sam Nesmith was arrested for the first time when he was 17.

He was raised near Indiana Avenue by his great-grandmother. As he grew up, the people around him who looked to be most successful were those stealing or selling drugs.

“I’d think, he got pretty women, or he’s got gold necklaces,” he said. “I want to be like that.”

Nesmith was later charged for selling drugs and sentenced to 50 years. For seven of those years, he was in solitary confinement, locked up 23 hours a day.

He had a lot of time to reflect and think.

“I told myself, if I ever got the chance, I was through with this,” he said.

Starting over when leaving prison, however, is not as simple as one might hope.

CareSource, a healthcare company, recognized three years ago a need for assistance and advocacy for individuals leaving the prison system. As it worked with former prisoners, it saw firsthand how they struggled. Now, the company helps people have a fighting chance once they have reentered society.

Dr. Cameual Wright, CareSource market chief medical officer and vice president, said that this can be an uphill battle. There are many challenges former convicts are greeted with when they leave the prison system. Those can be physical, behavioral health and social challenges.

“It became very clear to us early on that we needed to design a program that was tailored to meet the unique needs of this population,” she said.

CareSource has an entire department called Life Services. That department is dedicated to helping solve social issues that can impact one’s health. It also has a department called Job Connect, which helps members meet their educational or employment needs. This program is significant because without support, nearly 34% of adult ex-offenders in Indiana will return to prison within three years after release, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.

“For members who are interested, they can be paired with a life coach, and that life coach will work with them for up to two years to help them bust through barriers,” Wright said.

Nesmith took advantage of this program and is currently attending school to hopefully obtain an IT position once he finishes.

“To have somebody else telling me that I can do it is helping me build my confidence,” he said in a company video. “Without CareSource, I would still be trying to find my way.”

Wright wants people to remember that many people are incarcerated because of a bad day or a bad decision—and sometimes because of a culmination of life circumstances.

“We need to understand that people are not inherently bad,” she said. “Once someone has served their time, they are deserving of every opportunity to rebuild their lives and to thrive.”

Haley Pritchett is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students

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