West Michigan program transitions offenders back to society

MUKSEGON, Mich. — Some criminal offenders are spending the summer getting local festivals ready across West Michigan as part of the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program (KPEP.)

KPEP offers residential and non-residential programs for adult offenders, according to their website it’s for people “who need more structure than regular probation provides but where extended jail time is not judged necessary.”

Joe Doyle, who helps set up festivals around Muskegon, says he has used the program and its residents over the past several years.

This week resident volunteers were helping to set up the Muskegon Shoreline Jazz Festival and be back after to help tear it down. Doyle says it’s a big help and most of the volunteers that come really want to be there to help.

“They really do talk about their issues, how they got into that situation, talking about hanging around with the wrong kind of people and they need to hang out with positive people and they’ll be a better person; they do understand that and it comes across,” he said.

Dean McCallum and Bryan Brooks were helping finish up the work at the site Thursday.

McCallum ended up in the program after violating probation for a marijuana charge. Brooks, who is now 18, spent time in jail after breaking and entering and stealing a car, he also violated his probation; two different backgrounds but one goal in mind, to change their ways.

McCallum says it’s a chance to better himself and the community as he works through the programs to gets his life straightened out.

“A lot of it is you got to want to help before you can actually receive help,” he said.

Being able to help at festivals like this, the two say is a different opportunity to fill their community service hours.

“I worked on and off jobs but doing something like this I look forward to when I get,” Brooks said.

KPEP aims to offer offenders an opportunity at a second chance on the outside, with treatment programs and employment training to help them become contributing members of society for good.

KPEP has facilities in Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Benton Harbor. In 2013 volunteers contributed more than 55,000 hours at various events across the area including clean-up at parks and abandoned houses.

Of course, not all the residents fit the criteria to be out working at events like this, the director of Muskegon’s program says there are certain requirements they must meet.

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