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Life after Lock-Up Participant Becomes First to Earn a College Degree

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Jeremy Michael Laboone

(Walhalla, SC)-------------------------------------Someone’s past can never be changed but someone’s future can be. All it takes is faith and someone to believe in you while believing in yourself.

For Oconee County Sheriff’s Office employee Jeremy Laboone, who was born in Orangeburg and raised in Greenville, 10 years of his life (2004 – 2014) was spent in service to his country in the United States Army, where he served two combat tours in Iraq as a Calvary Scout. Jeremy also had a wife and three children.

Upon his discharge from the Army, Jeremy says that his combat tours left him with mental scars that were hard to overcome, which led to bad decisions, legal problems and being sentenced to prison.

“When I came home, there were things that I was dealing with. If I had sought help or talked with somebody, things would have been a whole lot different,” according to Jeremy. “I kinda held those things inside, started to self-medicate, got with the wrong people and got myself in some trouble.”

Upon conviction, Jeremy was sentenced to five years and served part of his sentence in a South Carolina Department of Corrections facility. Eventually, Jeremy was transferred from that facility to the Oconee County Detention Center in October of 2019. Some SCDC inmates are transferred to local Detention Facilities in a work program in order to finish out their sentence. Some inmates perform maintenance functions around the Law Enforcement Center as well as other duties such as cleaning and lawn maintenance. Others work is some county departments like the Rock Quarry and Solid Waste while some work on the Sheriff’s Inmate Litter Detail.

In November of 2020, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office began The Life after Lock-Up program with the goal of helping inmates transition from a time of imprisonment to a time of

second chances in the hopes of helping them, in part, be role models for others in addition to being employed in a full-time job.

For Jeremy, he began working at the Rock Quarry until the COVID-19 pandemic began. Due to the lockdowns that were in effect, Jeremy began to do maintenance work at the Sheriff’s Office and the Detention Center. Even though the official program did not begin until the fall of 2020, Jeremy feels that his work in the program began as soon as he arrived in Oconee County.

“As soon as I got here, the program started for me. People took me in like I was family” according to Jeremy. “You might be wearing something different, like stripes, but everyone here was really gracious and great. They always had something uplifting and positive to say to me and it was just like a total change.”

Due to Jeremy’s attitude and his willingness to learn new things, Jeremy was hired by the Sheriff’s Office full-time upon his release from jail in November of 2020 into one of the Life After Lockup positions funded by County Council. Starting out as a Custodian, Jeremy continued to work on certifications he would need to advance in his job. After receiving those certifications, he was promoted to Maintenance Mechanic One.

Jeremy also made the decision to enroll in classes at Tri-County Technical College. Even while working full-time, and being on call on nights and weekends, Jeremy went to school full-time as well. Eventually, Jeremy graduated and earned his Associates Degree in Applied Science with a Major in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology. Upon graduation, Jeremy became the first Life after Lock-Up participant to earn a college degree while also earning recognition as the Most Outstanding Student and making the Dean’s list as well.

“Through my Army service, I had the GI Bill and I knew that I was already coming out a step behind,” according to Jeremy. “I wanted to use that as a stepping stone to be a better maintenance person too. I really did not have a background in Maintenance so I wanted to apply myself to get better.”

Upon his graduation, Jeremy was promoted to Maintenance Mechanic Two just this month. Besides his duties, Jeremy also takes time to work with current State Inmates who were transferred to the Oconee County Detention Center. When asked, Jeremy said that the people were the best part of coming to work every day.

“After years of working here, it’s like a family. So even if you have a bad day, or if you have a good day, people are there for you,” says Jeremy. “That makes a world of difference.”

The Life after Lockup program was started by Sheriff Mike Crenshaw to give inmates being released the opportunity to change their life and become gainfully employed.

“Many times unfortunately we see repeat offenders because they cannot get a job with a criminal record. We have identified a number of employers willing to give someone a second chance. Jeremy is just one example of our success. I am very proud of him going back to school and becoming the first to get his degree” says Sheriff Crenshaw.

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