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Breaking the cycle of incarceration: Mayor’s Commission on Re-entry hopes to help

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 11:07 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - In the last five years, roughly 380 inmates were released from the Muscogee County Jail annually, according to a county by county breakdown from the Georgia Department of Corrections.

But upon release, 2/3 of them found themselves locked up behind bars again.

“They are going back to the same environment they came from when they went into the jail. When they get out of the jail, they are not taking advantage of the local resources or may not know about what’s available to them,” said John Wade, Muscogee County Sherriff’s Office.

According to the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, many of the men and women committing acts of violence against others are “career criminals.” They’ve been in and out of jail and/or prison most of their lives. But by offering them equal-opportunities for things like housing and employment, it allows them a chance to succeed once released.

“Food, shelter etcetera. Really anything that the individual might need so that they won’t return back or in all reality be forced to commit another crime,” explained Michael Forte, Mayor’s Commission on Re-entry member.

The group utilizes already existing local organizations like Safehouse Ministries, United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley and 211, as well as area churches, to act as a “safety-net” and offer essential opportunities to newly-released inmates, all free of charge.

”Probably 60% of our clients that stay at the shelters are re-entering citizens from incarceration,” said Cathy Robinson, director of case management at Safehouse Ministries.

“Giving someone a chance, taking a chance on someone - and that is what we as agency’s, as case managers as partners in the community do. We are the go-between,” said Pat Frey of Home For Good United Way.

Kristen Barker, co-chair of the commission, says they are already having discussions with Cure Violence, a separate outside-organization that the city council has committed $500,000 in hopes of partnering, or at the very least, making these resources available.

Tuesday at city council, members approved a proclamation dedicating this month to bring awareness to the mayor’s commission on re-entry.

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