Thousands of individuals incarcerated earlier in their lives have led crime-free lives – and some even have gone on to prominence – from a voluntary program called “Positive Impact,” said founder Mark Murphy, Director of Operations, Lake County Community Corrections. Founded in 1988 and originally called “Project Impact,” this self-help program involves ex-offenders helping other ex-offenders or those still incarcerated while giving back to the community. “I saw a need to have a support group run by ex-offenders but moderated by staff,” he said. The program, which has ebbed in size from several hundred to now around 30, meets weekly at the Lake County Corrections offices. Since launched, Mark estimates upwards of 5000 ex-offenders have benefited. The program grew out of his frustration that offenders who were expected to do well when released, would commit a crime and end up back in jail. Among his breakthroughs include involving both men and women in the program, and hiring inmates. “I’ve had up to seven working for me,” the new Society Member said. Three characteristics define the program that is unique to Northwest Indiana; it is described as being a “rollercoaster” over the years. First, the ex-offenders serve as mentors to those getting released or still incarcerated. Secondly, the program’s goal is to encourage participants to develop a positive attitude, resulting in making a positive impact on their families and communities. And thirdly, participants actively support projects that benefit the community. “As a result of helping others, they realize they are helping themselves,” Murphy said.