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With more than 60 years in prison between them, Lester Irby and Harold Brown still haven’t kicked their drug addictions, but the recent parolees have realized one thing: Old habits die hard and the lure of the street always beckons. Both men say they’ve found new hope and direction from a federally funded monthlong residential program that prepares D.C. offenders for drug treatment, job training, and other skills needed to survive outside prison walls. “The blessing is, I don’t have to revert back to my old people and my old friends,” Brown says during a break from one of his many classes at the Reentry and Sanctions Center, which opened last year in a renovated eight-story building next to the D.C. jail in Southeast Washington. Brown and Irby are among the lucky ones. The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the federal agency that runs the center, monitors more than 15,000 parolees and probationers in the District. At least 70 percent of the offenders are addicted to drugs, but CSOSA has funding to treat only one in four who need help. With more than 2,000 former inmates returning from prison each year to the District, the shortage of drug treatment threatens public safety by contributing to more street crime. Many studies across the country have shown that expanded and well-managed treatment programs for offenders reduce rates of recidivism. Many parolees also get sent back to prison for drug-related violations even though they never received treatment to help them conquer their addictions. CSOSA Director Paul Quander Jr. says the limited substance-abuse funds force difficult decisions about which offenders will get treatment. The agency received $2.8 million for the new center this year and is seeking an additional $2.1 million from Congress in CSOSA’s $190 million budget request for the 2008 fiscal year. “We have to triage it,” Quander says. “The issue has always been one of limited resources. We’re a criminal justice agency. We’re not a treatment agency.” LIVES OF CRIME Brown, 51, has been in and out of prison for the past 33 years for armed robbery, drug convictions, and parole violations. He spent 16 years in D.C.’s notorious Lorton prison before it was shut down in 2001 following class actions over the dangerous living conditions for inmates. Brown says he didn’t need to quit his heroin and cocaine habit because drugs, guns, and other contraband were easy to find in Lorton, where many prisoners lived “like gladiators” while dealing drugs and murdering rivals. “Lorton was one of the most free-run institutions in the U.S.,” he says. “Everything you could get on the street was in Lorton, but you just couldn’t leave.” Irby, a 60-year-old alcoholic with salt-and-pepper hair and a pencil-thin mustache, doesn’t look like a wild one now, but he was an infamous stickup man and escape artist in the 1960s and 1970s in D.C. Since then, he has spent more than 30 years in prison. “I escaped from various facilities in the D.C. area,” he says. That would be an understatement. In 1967, when he was 19, Irby escaped from the D.C. jail with four fellow inmates by crawling under one fence and scaling two 12-foot fences topped with barbed wire. FBI agents captured Irby and two other escapees the next day. In 1973, Irby escaped from the D.C. Superior Court cellblock by simply walking out with other inmates released on bond, but his most daring and ill-fated escape occurred just eight months later on a bus moving 41 inmates from the Lorton prison to medical appointments. Irby and three other prisoners used a smuggled pistol to hijack the bus, with one inmate shooting a guard in the arm and then exchanging gunfire with an escort vehicle. The foursome, who escaped on foot in their khaki prison uniforms, carjacked a woman and led police on a high-speed chase through Washington and Alexandria, Va. They were finally captured after crashing the car and fleeing into the woods while being pursued by police with dogs, Irby says. He tasted freedom for only two hours, but he received a 20-year sentence for the escape, he says. Irby, who has a high school diploma and some college credits from correspondence courses in prison, says he was paroled in January and got a food service job while staying in Hope Village, a halfway house in Southeast Washington. But he was ordered into the Reentry and Sanctions Center after failing several drug tests for alcohol. “That drug addiction, it’s a monster,” he says. “You have no intention of picking up a bottle, but you fall back into it.” Brown, a stocky man with a mustache who grew up in Northwest Washington, says he had no plan and received no drug treatment when he was paroled in 2003, so he kept using and selling heroin and cocaine, leading to a drug conviction and his return to prison. “A lot of times, they just throw you out” with no drug treatment, says Brown, who has a high school diploma but no real work experience. “The only thing I knew I could do was go out on the street and try to survive that way.” Brown was paroled again this year and was ordered into the Reentry and Sanctions Center. “At this stage, if I don’t take advantage of the few opportunities I have, I’m surrendering to nothing,” he says. NEW APPROACH, OLD PROBLEM The D.C. government had an abysmal record of treating or even keeping track of probationers and parolees because of a lack of oversight and needed funding. Congress took action in 1997 and created CSOSA to take over those duties. CSOSA has received roughly $11 million per year for the past five years from Congress to contract with local providers for inpatient and outpatient treatment of offenders, Quander says. Offenders who don’t receive treatment from CSOSA can be referred to the

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