Every year, more than 2,000 people return to Washington from federal prisons, but many are unprepared for life on their own. Louis B. Sawyer Jr., pictured here, was convicted in 1986 of paying a security guard to kill a man. After his release from jail, he struggled to find a job and a home.

Every year, more than 2,000 people return to Washington from federal prisons, but many are unprepared for life on their own. Louis B. Sawyer Jr., pictured here, was convicted in 1986 of paying a security guard to kill a man. After his release from jail, he struggled to find a job and a home.

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post

Sawyer's accommodations at a transitional home run by East of the River Clergy, Police, Community Partnership.

Sawyer's accommodations at a transitional home run by East of the River Clergy, Police, Community Partnership.

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post

Sawyer's well-marked devotionals. He had always been a churchgoer but says he did not have his "Road to Damascus" revelation until he'd been in prison about 15 years.

Sawyer's well-marked devotionals. He had always been a churchgoer but says he did not have his "Road to Damascus" revelation until he'd been in prison about 15 years.

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post

Sawyer has found support outside prison at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Southeast Washington.

Sawyer has found support outside prison at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Southeast Washington.

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post

Sawyer greets a woman at the church. At Allen Chapel, he says, "they were not judgmental. They were not critical. They did not look down on me."

Sawyer greets a woman at the church. At Allen Chapel, he says, "they were not judgmental. They were not critical. They did not look down on me."

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post

Sawyer and other churchgoers wait to receive a blessing.

Sawyer and other churchgoers wait to receive a blessing.

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post

Sawyer greets Allen Chapel Pastor Michael E. Bell Sr.

Sawyer greets Allen Chapel Pastor Michael E. Bell Sr.

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post

Sawyer often covers his head with a Jesus-themed cap. In prison, he helped found a mentoring group called Men of Principles, with a "spiritual base" and a sense of propriety aimed at countering gangster culture.

Sawyer often covers his head with a Jesus-themed cap. In prison, he helped found a mentoring group called Men of Principles, with a "spiritual base" and a sense of propriety aimed at countering gangster culture.

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post

A woman from his church encouraged Sawyer to apply for a position at University Legal Services. He got the job and now works part time helping ex-prisoners with mental illnesses adjust.

A woman from his church encouraged Sawyer to apply for a position at University Legal Services. He got the job and now works part time helping ex-prisoners with mental illnesses adjust.

Carol Guzy-The Washington Post