Eighteen months ago, I walked away from the Virginia Department of Corrections with $25, no shelter, no referrals and no direction. The guard who handed me my seven-year-old personal property had these words of encouragement: "We'll see you when you get back."

But I didn't go back, because Virginia CARES Inc., a transitional organization for ex-inmates, turned my life around. Virginia CARES counselor James "Beaver" Green, an ex-prisoner and recovering addict himself, has been helping people like me for almost 11 years. He assists ex-inmates in finding support services and connects them to others who, through his assistance, have already found their way. Only 10 percent of the approximately 250 ex-prisoners a year Mr. Green helps return to prison; the general recidivism rate in Virginia is more than 33 percent.

But instead of coming up with more cost-effective ways to reduce spending on corrections, Gov. Mark R. Warner wants to de-fund Virginia CARES, which actually saves the state money on criminal costs by reducing the chances of re-arrest and imprisonment ["Warner's Budget Cuts Frighten Transition Group for Ex-Inmates," Metro, Jan. 6].

If the governor really wants to save money, he should follow the lead of such states as Louisiana, Texas, Michigan and Kentucky, which are cutting their corrections costs. Recent polling shows that Americans support sensible alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.

Virginia CARES helps the disenfranchised accomplish extraordinary things. The governor should support it.

MICHAEL BLAIN

Washington