Prisoners to Parents: DOC finding success

TRI-CITIES, WA. - Turning prisoners into parents..that's what the Department of Corrections is doing. Instead of time in a jail cell some offenders are being put back in their homes instead. It's not to let them off easy..but to make it easier on our community in the long run. KEPR looks at how the program is working two-years after it's inception.

Second chances are not kind to those who break the law, but the Department of Corrections is looking to buck that trend for some parents.

"It gives them chances and opportunities," said Officer Shallon Sanders.

Offenders with children may qualify for the program. They can't have committed a violent or sexual offense. The program take a year. The goal is to make these people better parents, so their kids don't end up in the system down the road.

"It's about how the bedtime routine is going, taking over discipline with your children, these stress factors that you might not have had to deal with previously," said Officer Sanders.

Dianne Sems was one of the first offenders to enter the program. Dianne was a 30-year addict with two children facing a five-year prison term, desperate for a second chance.

"They told me, you got to make it, because it will blow it for everyone behind you, it's up to you," said Dianne Sems.

Dianne took that advice to heart. She's now one of many successes in the parent program. Dianne is an entrepreneur.

"Welcome to the greatest store in all the world," said Sems.

Not only did she regain custody of her children, but reopened a department store. Grabbing hold of her family and life.

"I told my daughter, don't make the choices I made, I always loved my kids, I just made bad choices," said Sems.

Offenders know if they step out of line -- they're going to serve their full prison term.

"Dianne was very determined, she is a very determined lady," said Officer Sanders.

And that determination has kept her on track and out of trouble three years later. Years that could have been spent locked up.

"To do something good for the city, instead of being the menace," said Sems.

After two years the DOC has only seen four people slip up and commit another felony. 260 offenders have entered the program with 219 completing it.