SECOND CHANCES: Inmates on work release treated to steak dinner

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TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Several people enjoyed walking Tyler’s downtown square during Dogtoberfest, but what they may not know is how much was set up by inmates on a work release.

Impressed by the inmates’ quality of work, Stonewater Roofing decided to give the trustees lunch at Jack Ryan’s steakhouse.

“While the trustees may be inmates, they are human and they had a knowledge, or understanding, of what it takes to work and appreciate the job they’re given,” said Trent Spradlin, Stonewater Roofing Chief Marketing Officer. “That, to me, really speaks volumes.”

The work crew had no idea they would be treated to such a high-class meal at a fancy downtown restaurant.

“We were right outside Jack Ryan’s and I was like ‘are ya’ll ready to eat?’ They said ‘yeah, where are we going to go?’ and we just walked in and I walked up the stairs and they just kind of stood at the bottom,” Spradlin said. “They almost felt like they shouldn’t go up there. They looked at their boss like ‘are we supposed to do this?’.”

The inmates sat at a table in a VIP room and weren’t treated like ordinary customers. Instead they were given the best the restaurant had to offer.

“They got to have the full meal deal, other than the alcohol of course, they were able to order whatever they wanted to on the menu,” said Wes Ebey, Chef and Owner of Jack Ryan’s Steakhouse. “They sat back and ate like they were kings.”

In an interesting twist of fate, the inmates’ server had once been in their shoes, and was able to offer encouraging words and advice.

“I know their pain and so I just tried to encourage them and tell them there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Look at me, I’m a second-chancer and I’m doing it. I’m raising my kid the right way, and just being positive,” said Jeff, a server at Jack Ryan’s.

After the Facebook post from the lunch gained attention, Spradlin says it wasn’t about self-promotion but about opening eyes.

“Everybody goes through hard times and us as humans, especially in the community, need to do what we can to support those in any capacity big or small,” Spradlin said.

Because we all deserve a second chance.

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.

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