Offenders receive second chances behind the line, in front of judge in Vanderburgh Co.

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VANDERBURGH CO., In (WEHT) — As Vanderburgh County continues to struggle with jail over-crowding, a quiet movement is taking place both in court and in Evansville’s neighborhoods to give offenders a second chance at a better life.

Most people believe that once they’ve been convicted of a crime, or sentenced to serve time, life as they know it is over.

But in Vanderburgh county hope can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

“15 years ago, a guy named Andy Preske seen me detailing cars in dress pants and a dress shirt. And he asked me ‘why was i doing that?’ And I said…. I’ve been locked up for 19 years and I didn’t want to wear that no more.’ And so he said he would give me a job.”

And just like that, Gary “Gatrick” Boy learned the value of second chances.

“When you’ve done your time, you’ve paid your debt to society. But people here already hold that against you,” he says.

Vanderburgh County Judge Les Shively oversees a program that aims to undo that.

“It gives people who have paid their debt to society an opportunity to seal their records, start fresh and make them more marketable,” he explains.

Expungement hearings are the second Monday of every month, and Shively says they’re quite different than other court dates.

“Most the times you go to court, it’s not a happy occasion. […] But people are cleaning up their record. The whole atmosphere is positive, upbeat.”

Just over one mile from the courthouse, the grill is sizzling, the pork is cooking, and Boyd is also hard at work behind the line, giving those on parole or probation a second chance.

“They know they have to be back at a certain time, and I don’t believe in giving you a break. […] I don’t have to look over my shoulder anymore, so I don’t want them to feel that way.”

Because of that kind of faith, people from both places have gone on to achieve what once seemed unreachable.

“Busted on a stupid drug charge… […] Couldn’t use his degree. After his expungement, he was hired by a firm up in Chicago making a nice six-figure salary,” Shively remembers one program participant.

“One now is a major chef at a major restaurant. I don’t want to say where he’s at,” Boyd says with a smile.

For Boyd, he is passing on a second chance, and a blessing, that a friend once gave to him after he was released.

“Like when I came home, first thing they said … we’ll see you. You’ll be back…..I ain’t never been back.”

Both those opportunities are for non-violent offenders.

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(This story was originally published on June 27, 2019)

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