The Freedom Institute helps former prisoners reenter society through WAGEES

Local News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KFQX) – Western Slope WAGEES works with Colorado’s Department of Corrections to coordinate services, support, and opportunities for successful reentry into society. WAGEES is just one department of what The Freedom Institute does.

Whether someone is already out on parole or getting ready to come back home, The Freedom Institute wants to give them the resources to move forward.

“It’s vital to them being successful,” Transforming Justice Intern Steven Erichsen asserts, “I’d be in a totally different spot I’ll be back in prison right now without his support that I received when I initially got out.”

This nonprofit serves as an advocacy for those in poverty, of color, and with crime history. People express how WAGEES has given them opportunities they would never have, otherwise.

“We’re really identifying people that have that lived experience, and trying to mentor them to invest into them and give them a platform to be the voice of the change moving forward for our community,” The Freedom Institute Executive Director Micah Espinoza expresses.

Participants live in their present, knowing their past, wanting to be a positive change for the future. One way they want to help is by combatting substance abuse and addiction with the next generation.

“If we’re really going to combat the addiction issue we need to combat it at the root,” WAGEES Apprentice Deborah Fache recognizes, “I believe that children’s minds are still pliable enough. There’s such a sponge that it’s much easier to turn them around and help them to think differently.”

At The Freedom Institute, they care more about where you want to go over where you’ve been. As the program makes a turnaround in their lives, those who’ve served time want to be the help that others need.

In 2014, the legislature passed HB14-1355. Among its other reforms, the law created a reentry community grant program within the Colorado Department of Corrections, the Work and Gain Education & Employment Skills (WAGEES) program, to provide funding to community-based organizations that support people returning from incarceration. 

The WAGEES program has locations all over Colorado, ready to help some with their next chapter.

  • Grand Junction Address: 2867 Orchard Ave. Grand Junction, CO 81501
  • Rifle Address: 1417 Air Port Rd. Rifle, CO 81650
    • Contact: PJ Wall, 970-778-5558,
  • Montrose Address: 147 E Main St. Montrose, CO 81401
    • Contact: Josh Bay, 970-787-5972,

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