July is “Re-entry Awareness Month” in Georgia

Re-entry Awareness Month, Georgia, July

COLUMBUS, Ga- Did you know that close to 95-percent of prisoners in Georgia will be released at some point?  Sadly, nearly half of those would be expected to return to prison– at least in the past.  But that number is changing as more resources become available to help those returning to society.

Now, Georgia is working to raise even more awareness. The state is taking a unique approach to stress that ex-prisoners deserve second chances.

Here’s a question for you: would you hire this woman?

“I have a Master’s degree in profit management, a Master’s degree in social services, I have a certificate in criminal justice, and I’m working on my doctorate.”

Judging by her degrees and credentials, she’s more than qualified. But Waleisah Wilson is a woman no one wants to hire. The reason? She spent time in prison.

It’s not easy being a convicted felon released from prison when no one is offering second chances.

“So if I don’t have a job, a place to stay can’t get food stamps, can’t get Medicaid, can’t vote, what do you expect me, what am I supposed to do?” asks Wilson.

Jody Dillard with the Georgia Department of Community Supervision agrees that ex-offenders deserve a second chance.

“Most of the population are people who have had bad breaks in the past and have made some very bad mistakes, and a lot of them a lot of mistakes, but we believe at some point we can help them overcome those problems, those challenges, get them back into our community, give them support, make sure they have employment and make sure they have the tools necessary for some of the challenges they face,” says Dillard.

“That they can get up and pay their bills without having to prostitute, without having to sell drugs, that’s a good feeling.  And to have people come in and say, ‘You know what, I’ve been clean six years and no one is still giving me a job,’ you send people back down the same spiral because that’s what causes addicts to do what they do. I don’t want to get back on drugs. I don’t want to go back to the streets,” says Wilson.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal proclaimed July Re-entry Month– a time to recognize that in order to keep people who have served their jail terms from returning to prison– it takes the community as a whole to offer them a second chance– and forgive them.

Wilson runs the non-profit New-Life Second Chances Outreach, Inc.

Her agency helps ex-offenders find work after jail.

She’s been at it since 2014.

So far, she’s placed more than a 110 people into jobs.

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