Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes and Jail Administrator Jeff Hein toured the Liberty County Re-entry Coalition’s new office building Thursday. Sikes and Hein were greeted by coalition members Morris Cockerm and Daisy Jones and state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway.
The Re-entry Coalition held an open house Feb. 26, but conflicting schedules kept Hein and Sikes from participating. The office will serve as the one-stop resource center for people recently released from jail. The focus of the center is to assist them in their transition back into society, which may reduce the rates of recidivism.
During the tour, Williams said it costs the state $18,000 a year to house and feed one inmate. Hein said it costs the county roughly $12,000 per inmate for those being held at the Liberty County jail. Williams added that it costs $90,000 a year per juvenile in the system.
The Re-entry Coalition is modeled after Gov. Nathan Deal’s Criminal Justice Re-Entry Initiative, which was launched in February 2014. The Liberty County group has put all the pieces in place and is looking to be accepted as a pilot program, which would make it eligible for state funds.
Williams said getting the program officially launched is a necessary step in getting those with the willingness and drive to do better into the resource center. He said it offers them a chance to succeed and prove that some people deserve a second chance.
The office will offer services such as courses on business etiquette and résumé writing, how to dress and speak during a job interview, basic computer skills, housing search assistance, GED and adult-education preparation, peer support and counseling. In addition, the center will provide resources for housing, employment and financial training.
Sikes said that if the program can benefit even one person, it would be a success.
Williams agreed and suggested that the Re-entry Coalition might be able to serve the rural areas, possibly within the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, thereby serving a larger area and meeting a better criteria in drawing in state funding.
Hein stressed the importance of patience within the law enforcement and local communities. He said programs like the Re-entry Coalition need time to build a legacy and measure of success.
Williams said he thinks there are far more released inmates who are willing to do right than want to become repeat offenders. But he added that these people desperately need the training the re-entry programs plans to provide and jails currently do not. He said some will resist or not be willing to be reached or helped. But small successes, he said, would soon breed more success and create the ripple effect of positive changes in the community.
Looking ahead in the hopes of creating a successful future, the group discussed how to use the program’s resources as a means to provide early rehabilitative training for those housed in the county jail. Members also talked about reaching out to troubled youths in an effort to prevent them from heading down the wrong path in life.
Williams said, however, that none of these potential plans will bear fruit unless the Re-entry Coalition has an opportunity to succeed. In order to succeed, he said, it needs to be funded not only locally but at the state level.
“This is absolutely necessary to this community,” he said.
Currently the coalition is being supported through local donations. For more information on the LCRC or to donate online, go to www.libertyreentry.org.