Austin program for ex-offenders nearly overwhelmed by demand for services

By Wendy Wohlfeill

Officials at a far West Side organization fear if client demand continues to rise, more and more recently released prisoners will be left fending for themselves. Roger Ehmen, director of Westside Health Authority’s Prisoner Re-Entry Center, said a recent jump in numbers shows the dire need for the program in Austin. Ehmen said the center saw an increase of 104 percent more clients over the last two years. In 2008, the office helped just over 5,000 clients, while last year the program assisted close to 11,000. The biggest concern now is that the numbers will continue to rise, and many more ex-offenders in need will be left without services.