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When I first interviewed Jason Horn in jail last October, the 33-year-old sounded hopeful about restarting his life and putting his felony record in the past. He said that after a decade-plus checkered with bad decisions and bad breaks, he wanted to find a job and provide for his 5-month-old son.

Horn got out of jail Nov. 12, and I've kept tabs on him since, joining him for an afternoon of job searching and talking frequently about the daily ups and downs as he's tried to move forward. His optimism never seemed to waver — until just before Christmas, when his job hunt seemed to be going nowhere and he learned he'd be spending the holiday alone.

I couldn't help thinking then, and at other times, how much easier it would be for Horn to accept failure than to keep struggling onward. If constant rejection is all that comes from trying to do the right thing, why not blow off an AA meeting and get drunk, parole requirements be damned?

Thankfully, that hasn't happened (see cover story here), and Horn's job search was continuing as of press time. But as state budget woes squeeze out programs to help parolees like him stay out of prison, two questions remain: How long can those people keep trying? And can the state afford it if they don't?

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