After Release from Prison, Turning a Life Around
Program helps ex-prisoners readjust and contribute to society
ANCHORAGE - It wasn't easy for 48-year-old Bobbi Sierer to find full time work.
"I'd never been a felon before, and so coming out it was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated,” said Sierer after her shift at Wendy’s on Wednesday, where she’s worked full time since July.
"I didn't realize that a background check means you can't have been in trouble,” she said.
In April, Sierer finished up her five-year sentence at Hiland Mountain Correction Center for manslaughter and DUI.
"I got behind the wheel when I was too tired and fell asleep driving and hit someone in oncoming traffic, and I killed her; her name was Zoe Kreizenbeck, and she died at the scene of the accident,’ said Sierer, who was using methamphetamine and marijuana at the time.
Now clean, Sierer said it was hard readjusting to the world after she was released.
But she didn't have to do it alone.
“The main thing about getting them back into community is to establish them a safe environment,” said Pat Staregowski, Sierer’s case manager with the Alaska Native Justice Center’s Re-Entry Program.
“A lot of them will go right back into the same environment expecting different circumstances, and it doesn’t turn out that way -- that's why the recidivism rate gets so high, because they don’t have an alternative place to go,” said Staregowski, referring to the importance of finding a stable place to live.
Luckily for Sierer, she has a lot of family support -- she’s preparing to spend Thanksgiving with them for the first time in 5 years.
“My youngest granddaughter has been born while I was in there, so I’ve never had a Christmas or a Thanksgiving or a birthday with her, I'm really excited about that,” she said.
The re-entry program helped Sierer look for work and provided weekly counseling. She’s now considered a graduate of the program, but continues to attend sessions regularly.
“The group support, the staff support -- they're so willing to listen, I never felt put down there," said Sierer.
The program also helped Sierer get a bus pass and work clothes.
Sierer's case manager with the re-entry program said Sierer is mentor material.
“She has expressed and exhibits those kind of qualities as long as she's been in the group she's helped others to find an incentive to find that job and reach out,” said Staregowski.
After learning life lessons the hard way, Sierer is happy to be a productive part of society and one day hopes to open her own bed-and-breakfast business.