Prison officials answer reentry program questions

By: Melissa Tune Email
By: Melissa Tune Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock, June 6, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Prisoners are released in Georgia every day and expected to quietly merge back into society. But the transition is not an easy one. That's why representatives from the Department of Corrections and state parole board were in town tonight to talk with people living in Augusta about the Georgia Reentry Impact Program, which is designed to help offenders for the first six months they are out of prison.

There are parolees enrolled in this program so far, some of them right here in Augusta.

When the doors of freedom open for some Georgia inmates, there is a 66 percent chance that many of them will end up back on the inside. It is hoped that the new program will help smooth the transition back into society.

"Convicted felons, we've got to figure they cannot get a job," said Superior Court Judge David Roper. "We have got to figure out a way to get them reconnected with the community and make them productive citizens again."

"I endorse it 100 percent," said State Senator Ed Tarver. "We need to make sure we have a structure in place to reenter the community, not only to help get jobs, but help them reconnect with their families."

"The best thing we can do is help these folks become contributing members of our community," he went on.

But some Georgians are not familiar with the program and many are just skeptical. Tonight was an opportunity for them to hear more from members of the state Department of Corrections.

"I don't have a problem with parolees looking for work," said Linda Engleking-Cooper. "What I am interested in is we as community members, how we can be involved in this process."

"Why should you fear your own? Why should you fear those that came from you? So why not do something to assist?" said Richmond County teacher and resident William Harris.

"I would rather live beside a person on parole than a person that maxed out his sentence," said Garland Hunt, chairman of the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole.

Hunt says that one of the misconceptions about the program is that it's assumed those released from prison are not ready. He and other members of the Georgia prison boards say unless the program is used to its maximum, we will never know how well it will work.

"The point is: give one year supervision," Hunt said. "That's somebody that knows where he goes, where he works, where he lives, drug free, as opposed to maxing out of his sentence and nobody knows where he lives, where he works, and he's back in society without any accountability."

"Our philosophy is, if you are afraid of them, lock them up," said James E. Donald, commissioner of the Department of Corrections. "If we are just mad at them, maybe we ought to think about some type of alternative options for them."

"We all make mistakes in the walk of life," said Bill Jackson of the Board of Corrections. "Certainly that would be a reasonable assumption."

"(The) 'lock them up and throw away the key' concept is just not working, and we're going to let the public know, and we're going to do something to change that," said Wayne Dasher, chairman of the Board of Corrections.

The reentry program is a five-step process that begins with a diagnosis/evaluation. After that, it could be six to 18 months before a parolee is released.

In between, however, they are monitored and will follow a map of sorts to help them ease back into the community.

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  • by Gary Location: Ohio on Oct 23, 2008 at 05:51 AM
    My wife gave me an idea for my life management presentation. "I think your program would be great for prisoners that will be soon be mainstreamed into society after serving their time," she said. I thought it was a great idea. I am a life coach with a dynamic power point presentation aimed at improving the quality of people's lives. I have fought through much adversity in my life and resultantly have much to offer people that need direction. My program is entitled "The Seven Building Blocks of Life," and it covers the following areas: Create an Environment for Success; Goal Setting; Health and Fitness; Finances; Careers and Professional Performance; Family and Social Relationships; and Personal and Spiritual Needs. If you would like to learn more about my program and about my qualifications please contact me directly by email and you can also view my Web site: Thanks you and best regards P.S. If you would like references, please let me know.
  • by Cocerned Location: Thomosn on Jun 8, 2007 at 06:12 AM
    I think that starting this type program is an excellent idea. Someone needs to reach out to these people. A lot of times this maybe the only type structure in a criminals life. We as individuals are sometime to quick to judge others. We never know the environment that these people have grown up in and maybe never had a chance in life. Then again one can be given to much and end up the same way because something they needed in life is missing. I do not up hold what criminals do but it all started somewhere they didn'tjust wake up one day and become a criminal. I work for Parole and see this happening to people everyday. I have been in law enforcement for 11 years. I have seen them come to jail be sentenced sent to prison and now I am seeing those same ones being released from prison and placed on Parole some of them repeated offenders and most of them young people. I have commercial property on Washington Road that's vacant in Thomson and I will be more than happy to help with this program. This could be my children or yours. let's don't be to quick to judge. Yes, I believe everybody has a price to pay for thier actions. But if we make a difference in someones life then we have made an accomplishment.
  • by Nadine Watson Location: Augusta Georgia on Jun 7, 2007 at 01:09 PM
    I support this program because I have two daughters and a son that has been and still is a part of this system, as a single parent for majority of their lives it has been a struggle for the entire family and sometimes very little family support. It is a proven fact that where you have a strong support system in place and structure a person the trend of repeat offenders of any kind tends to improve. We are harder on each other and less forgiving where mistakes are made than Christ is on us we are not talking about hard core criminals or murders. Our job in society is to reach others not judge others, what we lack this day and time is compassion for life especially where our youth and young adults are concerned, I have heard them be called the lost generation, well the God I serve has a lost and found in place and I often pray that through their trials and tribulations they will become awesome men and women of the future by Gods grace and mercy but we have to help if we call ourselves children of God
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