Man who spent decades behind bars now helping make sure others don’t do the same

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -In an effort to decrease the recidivism rate in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, a new program is coming to the regional jail.

The REAL (Rehabilitation, Empowerment and Advancement for Liberation) Re-entry Program is the brainchild of Bryan Page, a man who has spent decades of his life behind bars.

Page says the program will help current inmates with 90 days or less left on their sentence learn a variety of skills.

“Teaching them how to be father, how to maintain a job and be a father, how to conduct interviews, how to write resumes, how to respect people, how to go out into society and conduct yourself,” he said.

REAL will also teach budgeting, and will help participants find housing and jobs.

“We still going to be there because we are under Guns Down Incorporated and the B.U.C.K Squad, so really, we are just collaborating together to attack these issues from different angles,” Page said.

It’s part of an effort to give continued support long after a person’s release from jail.

“I went to prison at 16 for 12 years,” Page said. “But because I didn’t possess necessary skills to survive in society, I only lasted 7 months and I went back for 12 more years.”

Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail Superintendent Martin Kumer says this is the first program in the area led directly by someone who’s been behind bars, which he says will likely lead to lower recidivism rates.

“They’re not going to listen to me, and you’re not going to be successful at reaching that person unless you can get them to open their mind. When someone looks at me like, ‘who are you to tell me what to do or what I should do? You have no idea where I came from. You have no idea of the struggles I’m going to face when I walk out these doors, why should I listen to you?’ Brian steps up and says, ‘I’ve been where you’ve been,’” Kumer said.

The program is set to start as soon as all of the equipment is secured to operate it virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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