Success Stories
Eugene Cossich is all smiles as he proudly holds up the keys to his car. His time living in Parole Project's Redemption Homes allowed him to purchase the vehicle with savings he earned from his job at a state agency


ON THE DAY EUGENE COSSICH WAS SENTENCED to 42 years in prison as a habitual offender his tumultuous life ground to a sudden and dramatic stop. No stranger to trouble, Eugene began to spiral out of control as a teenager. An opioid addiction drove him further and faster into a life of crime, speeding toward destruction as his life went by in a blur. Then, suddenly, it was over. In his mid-40s at the time of sentencing, Eugene was facing the rest of his life in prison.

To Eugene, time in prison seemed to stand still. Days blended into weeks, weeks into months and at times he lost track of the year. He had no visits, no future to plan, and survival became a matter of keeping his head down and his guard up. Referring to himself as an introvert, Eugene spent most of his time alone and worked as an administrative orderly, performing clerical duties for correctional staff. There were however, two things that kept him going—his developing relationship with a higher power and his hard-won sobriety. For 20 years he felt as if the world had passed him by while his own life was on permanent hold.

In 2020, Eugene received an unexpected opportunity. Changes brought about by Louisiana’s 2017 justice reforms made him eligible to appear before the Committee on Parole. With assistance from Parole Project, Eugene successfully demonstrated at his hearing that he was rehabilitated, with a strong reentry plan for his return to the community. On September 15, 2020, Eugene was released and began his new life in Parole Project’s intensive reintegration program. Suddenly, his life was taken off of hold. Only this time Eugene wasn’t moving at break neck speed without a plan. This time his path was clear and he was supported by those who had traveled the road before him. During the next 12 months, he would experience, grow and connect more than he had over his entire life.

Today Eugene moves at a steady and productive pace. After working for several months in a warehouse for a local business, Plato’s Closet, he landed a warehouse clerk’s position with a state agency. He quickly acclimated to the job and learned that he wasn’t such an introvert after all. His professional success grew the confidence to build positive connections to others. Now learning to believe in his own potential, Eugene allows himself to feel optimistic about his future.

Thanks to his incredible work ethic and the lessons he learned through Parole Project on how to budget, Eugene reached several of his financial goals in the first year of his new life. A few months after buying a car, he had saved up enough money to move out of Parole Project transitional housing and into his own apartment. When he reached the goal of moving into his own apartment Eugene was smart enough to lean on his friends for some of the heavy lifting. Parole Project was there on the big day, moving sofas, carrying boxes and helping him set up utilities. “Self-reliance is important,” he pointed out,” but knowing when to ask for help is key!”

Not all the roads Eugene travelled during the past year were smooth. Like everyone, he experienced times of frustration, fear and anxiety. There was COVID, changing the way we all live, and more recently retinal reattachment surgery—for the second time. His vision issues meant he had to rely on his support system at Parole Project for transportation to medical appointments and the pharmacy, not to mention the emotional encouragement he needed.

Eugene likes to cook when he is not working and is fastidious about keeping his home neat and tidy. He enjoys life's simple routines like taking walks and talking to his daughters
Eugene likes to cook when he is not working and is fastidious about keeping his home neat and tidy. He enjoys life’s simple routines like taking walks and talking to his daughters

Eugene has two daughters, Britton (39) and Annie (34), who live in different states. Over time, he lost contact with them. One evening, sometime after his release, he took a walk on the levee near River Road. He begged God to reconnect him with his daughters, calling them his lifeline. Two days later, Annie got in contact with her father’s parole officer who then relayed her information to Parole Project and the rest, as they say, is history. He now has daily phone calls with his daughters that he calls the highlight of his day. In Louisiana the term lagniappe means “a little something extra.” For Eugene, lagniappe has been a reconnection with his siblings and a few old friends, whom he visits on occasion.

But his biggest accomplishment, according to Eugene, is that he is now regarded as an honest, hardworking citizen, “I used to hurt and take, now I care and give. That’s what I’m proudest of.” He regularly tells new Parole Project clients that it’s important to make their second chance count. He carefully explains that just having this opportunity isn’t enough, they must put in the effort if they want to achieve what he has this year.

When he shares his story with people in the community he never forgets to credit Parole Project. “They know what needs to be done. If they can help me, they can help anybody. I couldn’t be who I am today without them.”

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