Columbus woman pushing for bail system reform

Updated: Jan. 14, 2020 at 9:18 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A Columbus woman is using the lessons she learned behind bars to restore opportunities for others.

Waleisah Wilson was formerly incarcerated for a misdemeanor. Instead of letting her circumstance define her, she says she is fighting to equip, empower, and restore hope to disadvantaged men and women.

She created NewLife Second Chance Outreach, Inc.

“We work with people with criminal records, misdemeanors, and felonies, and we help them find jobs. Over the course since 2014, we’ve helped hundreds find jobs,” Wilson says.

Wilson began work to get resettled into normal life, which is where she met Dr. J. Aleem Hud.

“We linked up. Ever since then, we’ve been working together on various issues as it relates to human rights issues, incarceration," Hud says.

Their latest issue is the bail system.

“The purpose of bail, supposedly, is to get you to promise to come back to court. But the only people being penalized for that are people who are poor or cannot afford the money,” says Wilson.

On Tuesday morning, Wilson addressed Columbus City Council.

“Half a million Americans are currently behind bars without a conviction. That means they’re technically, legally innocent because they cannot afford bail," Wilson says.

In addition to Hud, Elizabeth Melton, chair of the Libertarian Party of the Chattahoochee Valley, also paired up with Wilson to tackle this issue.

“The Libertarian party is very much about freedom and criminal justice reform. We believe prison is a place people go in order to protect the broader society from them, rather than for punishment,” Melton says.

Together, they are looking for the council to create legislation to stop putting people in jail for misdemeanors to save the city money, the jails space, and the people’s time.

“You know what I always tell those gentlemen who have been locked up? I’ve been there, done that. You don’t let your present situation define you as an individual,” says Columbus City Councilman Jerry “Pops” Barnes.

“It’s been something that has been on the minds of all of those in the justice department, not just law enforcement, and we continue to work on it and we appreciate you putting attention on it,” says Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson.

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