Ex-drug dealer turns life around, hopes other offenders will follow

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By Jill Glavan

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 2, 2014) -- A former drug dealer is telling his story and it's one at the center of debate over crime in central Indiana communities.

Every year, an estimated 20,000 people get out of Indiana's prisons. More than a third of them will re-offend in less than three years.

Steven McCloud was one of the inmates. He served six years for dealing drugs, going in when he was just 20 years old.

"You are nervous once you come home," McCloud said.

McCloud's story inside the system is typical, but his story outside is far more unique. Since his release, he's found a mentor and services to help him get housing and go to Ivy Tech. He's studying to work in community development, fixing the very streets that steered him wrong.

"I made plans and those plans I made, I stuck to them," McCloud said.

That's the advice he had for other inmates. He hoped more of them would seek out services and be a part of the solution, not the problem.

"When I got out, (the) first thing I thought was, 'What does everybody expect me to be?' ... But then I had to realize, 'Who do I want to be?'" McCloud said.

It's stories like his that prompted state officials, including Governor Mike Pence, to announce Thursday that the Plainfield prison will usher in a program targeted first-time offenders. The plan is to house only first-time low to moderate risk offenders, serving less than three years, with access to mentors and services to keep them out of jail upon release.

"I want Indiana to be the worst place in America to commit a crime, but I want Indiana to be the best place once you’ve done your time," Pence said.

McCloud had to do it all himself and said it isn't easy seeking out services. He hoped this would put more on his path to becoming positive influences.

"One of the things I want to say is, stop taking freedom for granted. Utilize our freedom and create something stronger," McCloud said.

You can learn more about offender services through the Department of Correction here.