Camden Co. program gives inmates Second Chance

CAMDEN, N.J. - August 13, 2010

The "Second Chance" program at the Camden Co. Jail is in its 12th year. It's held once a week, on Tuesdays and its success has much to do with one woman who volunteers her time.

"I didn't know how to be a good friend, know how to be a good co-worker. I was just complete mess," said Cheryl Marlowe / "Second Chance" volunteer.

Cheryl Marlowe is a Systems Support Tech at 6abc. She's been volunteering with the Second Chance program for the past 4 years. She tells the women in the program it took a lot of hard work to clean up her mess.

"And a lot of tears and anguish for me to become the woman I've always wanted to become," Marlowe added.

The women listen intently as Cheryl tells them she's been where they are.

"I would get up and I would just roam the streets; did what I had to do to survive..."

However, Marlowe says her life now is the best it's ever been.

"I wake up in the morning and I'm excited: Excited about my day; my life; excited to go to work in the morning..." She talked about how she changed her life: "I started hanging around people I wanted to be like; hanging around people who had my interest at heart."

The women in the Second Chance program are minimal offenders; most are incarcerated for offenses involving drug addiction, DWI's, shoplifting and prostitution.

On the evening Action News came to a session, Cheryl's topic for discussion was "Serenity, Peace and Joy." They are feelings many of these women don't remember experiencing.

Vandetta, an inmate, told us: "All I knew was shame, anger, disappointment, embarrasment."

Second Chance is a volunteer program. Inmates who participate often get a reduced prison stay but more importantly, they get help along with the jail time.

Thirty-two-year-old Meghan has been an addict for more than a decade. She'll leave prison later this month, but she's happy she won't be going home.

Meghan told Action News, "I'm glad I'm going to a halfway house... and I can admit that, you know what I mean, that I actually need that for me and my recovery."

This is the first time 34-year-old Kelly Ann has been in prison and the first time she's felt responsibility for her actions.

Kelly Ann: "Responsible for the pain and anguish I've caused. The damage i've caused to my life; to deal with it every single day; to look at myself in the mirror and just be held accountable for the things I've done."

Fourty-five-year-old Vandetta has been a mother on drugs for 31 years. She has 7 children and she feels tremendous guilt because, despite all her failings, er kids still love her.

" I have a daughter who comes here every week... She's only 21 and I don't deserve that."

But with her childrens' love, with Cheryl Marlowe and Second Chance, Vandetta is beginning to feel peace & joy in her life. Vandetta was scheduled to leave prison earlier today.

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