Church, District Attorney team up to help offenders

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Wednesday, Oct. 9th, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Sometimes all you need is a second chance. It's something we hear all the time and that's what Richmond County's Drug Court offers to some offenders.

But District Attorney Ashley Wright says she's noticing a big issue with the graduating classes. She said, "We have African American males failing out at almost a rate of two to one to the Caucasian males and that's a problem."

Since 2008 they've graduated dozens of people from the drug court program, but Wright says that's not the number she's interested in. It's the number who don't make it.

"I started trying to figure out what the difference between the two might be. Why one group would be successful and why one group would not be as successful," she said.

One of the biggest differences was as simple as a support system.

She's says she noticed a difference in "who's got people coming with them [and] who's got a place to go and live."

So shes teaming up with a local church to find a way to fix the problem.

"I wondered how we could start trying to provide family to those who didn't have anybody to lean on so I came up with an idea that we could build a family around a participant," explained Wright.

"We need to get involved and help make a difference in their lives," said Reverend Larry Fryer with Hudson Memorial CME Church.

He is developing the program called "One Church, One Goal: A Chance to Change".

"Augusta is stronger when all of us take care of all of us," said Fryer.

One of the most recent reports on juvenile crime show 34 percent re-offended after one year, 41 percent after two and 45 percent after three.

"That is sort of the person I want to help," said Wright. "The one who hasn't been given a chance. The one who may feel like nobody else cares about what happens to them."

They're asking local churches and community groups to help sponsor those who need a little extra help.

"We're just trying to make sure we have some open doors where so many doors have been closed in their faces," said Fryer.

Wright says they are planning to start with the drug court and then expand to others. It won't be mandatory, but will be encouraged.

They hope to have to program in place by the end of the year. They are looking for more churches and organizations who are interested in partnering with them.

They say this isn't about religion, it's just about that open door.

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