LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Paving a path forward — for those just released from prison. That’s the goal of a local education and training program right here in Nevada.
But they’ve had to make some adjustments due to the coronavirus.
When someone is released from prison, it can be hard to stay on the right track. Those looking for jobs struggle because of a lack of skills and connections.
The program “Novum-U” is changing that, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Edward Bevilacqua says his time behind bars made him realize his true calling in life: to lend a helping hand, to those who need it most. That’s why he started Novum-U — a training program for newly-released inmates.
“Having been to prison myself, it’s a horrific experience,” said Bevilacqua. “When people get out of prison, we provide housing, counseling, education and employment.”
For eight years, they’ve used Nevada prisons as classrooms, eventually bringing those on parole to their school in Las Vegas.
But the coronavirus has changed things.
“When COVID hit, no more going in to the prisons,” Bevilacqua said.
So, they got creative.
Homework lessons are placed into these monthly magazines, which are sent to the prisons. Assignments from inmates return via mail.
Since July, about 50 people on parole per month are accepted into their in-person 90-day program.
“We just have to do things to help people break the chains of recidivism. In our school, the only way to do that is education,” Bevilacqua said.
Former inmates, now students, say it’s a blessing.
“This program will help you get back on your feet, because sometimes it’s hard on your own,” said Casey. “But if you want it, this program will help you for sure.”
Also new for Novum-U is thieir collaboration with the defenders law firm. Their role is to support the students and represent them, if needed.
“People make a mistake in life, it doesn’t mean that we should just forget about them and just push them off and they should be gone with, you know,” said David Kohlmeier, director of client relations at The Defenders. “We want to help people.”
Not even a global pandemic can deter them from their main mission.
“Our goal is to help people leave prison behind for good,” Bevilacqua said.
Their other big goal is to expand. Right now, Novum-U only operates here in Nevada, but they eventually want to have programs and schools in every state.