Community leaders urge city to rev up felon re-hiring program - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Community leaders urge city to rev up felon re-hiring program

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

According to Reverend Richard Jessie, Columbus probably has one of the largest prison work forces in America. "Many of these prison jobs, when inmates are released and pay their debt to society, they're coming back home and they cannot get employment," he says.

Jessie claims the work details Muscogee County inmates do with Columbus Public Works are not helping turn non-violent felons into productive members of society outside of confinement.

He adds, "Any grown man, rather than sitting on his behind, would work if he could."

After hearing the reverend's presentation, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, shared information about the city's current felon re-entry program that's already in place.

"We're going to pursue the intent of that ordinance, which is to transition those that are serving us now, in jobs very similar to those that they can hold once they've paid their debt to society," Tomlinson explains.

According to the Mayor, the city has a group that pulls records to vet felons for productive jobs. Crime Prevention has joined forces with Columbus Tech to put together a program to prepare recently released felons for the work place.

Mayor Tomlinson adds, "Eighty five percent of the people who leave the jail and go into this program are placed into jobs."

Even with this program, Jessie tells us the city still needs to do more in the fight to reform felons and help them transition back into society.

Jessie says, "we want to make sure that, under the felon hiring program, that -- when inmates that have records go to the city, if they're not using alcohol and drugs, if they're ready to work, they can indeed receive some of these jobs."

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