BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wisc. (WEAU) - Nearly two weeks after two inmates escaped the Black River Correctional Center, dozens of former inmates returned as changed men.
The center had its eighth annual inmate reunion, where former inmates come back to reconnect and encourage current inmates that they can still lead productive lives.
The Challenge Incarceration Program at the Black River Correctional Center offers an alternative to prison for lower level offenders.
"The program can help them change their life. They can lead a better life than going back to prison," center captain Mike McNulty said.
Providing education, work experience and critical thinking training, many "graduates" have been successful leaving crime behind.
On Saturday, former inmates like Ryan Steinhoff returned to spread a message as positive role models for current inmates as part of their annual reunion.
"What I went through was tearing down who I was and what i used to be and rebuilding into the person who I am today," Steinhoff said.
Since ending a life of drug use and theft, Steinhoff turned to music and signed a national recording contract rapping under the name Syndrome. He travels to schools and prisons to encourage students and inmates to live a positive life.
He said inmates, James Newman and James Misleveck, who escaped last week and allegedly went on a crime spree, unfairly gave the program a black eye.
"These two fools went out and put a negative light on something that's great and people should be supporting," Steinhoff said.
"They were not representative of the type of inmate we get here," McNulty said.
"When you walk through this door, they strip you down to nothing. You forget the person you were because they scare it out of you. And they rebuild you into something great," Steinhoff said.