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Liberty County prison re-entry group gives Ga. officials an update
State praises local effort; coalition seeks funding
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State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, and Liberty County Re-entry Coalition member Daisy Jones address state and local officials at the Liberty County Board of Commissioners office Tuesday morning. - photo by Patty Leon

Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which will appear in Sunday's paper. The Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless was recently given the Re-entry Partnership Housing Award from the state Community Affairs and Community Supervision departments. The funding was incorrectly stated in a front-page article Wednesday concerning the Liberty County Re-entry Coalition.

The Liberty County Re-entry Coalition welcomed staff members from the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Re-entry Tuesday afternoon at a meeting held at the Liberty County Board of Commissioners’ office.

The get-together was to inform the state office’s staff just far how the Liberty County group had come to launching the county re-entry program and seek funding assistance from the state.

The Liberty County Re-entry Coalition is modeled after the statewide initiative launched by Gov. Nathan Deal. It is meant to help former inmates transition into society and attain housing, mentoring and employment. The coalition’s vision would be a one-stop location that would provide all the resources necessary to help clients transition and reduce the rate of recidivism in the community.

Coalition member Daisy Jones explained that the group has met four times with community stakeholders and held a citizens’ meeting with former state Transition, Support and Re-entry Director Jay Neal in September 2014.

The group also received feedback from 92 inmates and 27 people who were recently released from prison in the county. They gathered information, and their needs and concerns were addressed during those meetings.

The coalition has also secured temporary housing through the Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless, which was recently given the Reentry Partnership Housing Award from the Department of Community Affairs and Department of Community Supervision. Housing is also being offered by several faith-based organizations and local church groups and the city of Hinesville’s homeless program. The coalition has created partnerships with community service organizations to ensure those recently released will have access to food, resources, educational support, counseling and employment opportunities.

Jones said the coalition steering committee is in place and is working to create volunteer and staffing opportunities, and finalizing its office building plans and operational hours.

State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, commended Jones on her work in spearheading prison re-entry efforts locally as he tries to do what he can at the Capitol. He also thanked all the service organizations that attended the Tuesday meeting for their support.

Williams then turned his attention to the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Re-entry staff members.

“We’ve done everything we know to get ready and be in position. … We are a rural county with a metropolitan flavor — a rural county where you might find somebody from Riceboro standing next to somebody from Brooklyn, Los Angeles or Chicago. … We got it all. …We have a terrific mix, which means we have a mixture of brain power here that is unheard of in most rural communities,” he said. “All this talk is good, but it takes gold to makes this train roll. … We need to be funded.”

Jones then announced that the Liberty coalition had prepared a cost analysis and budget to include startup costs and funds for the first year of operation. She said the amount included money necessary to renovate the building.

“We’ve identified a building that the county will possibly let us utilize, and we are hoping we can make significant improvements on that building in order to make it operational. … Some people don’t want to talk about money, but we really need $175,000 to get started,” she said. “That will get us into the building, take care of all of our startup costs, and that does incorporate some personnel salary compensation necessary.”

Williams emphasized that $175,000 is nothing when compared to how much it costs to house an inmate in jail each year.

Tony Lowden, the director of state’s Faith and Justice Initiative, spoke about program implementation happening statewide but added that he is quite impressed with Liberty County Re-entry Coalition’s efforts.

“Of course, you know we have these pilot sites that we are getting to roll out all across this state. … When I saw your presentation and after talking with Daisy several times … and had various conversations with (Rep.) Williams … you guys have already taken a further step than most of our pilots. … To be honest … we have some pilot sites that have not gotten to where you are,” he said. “I am sitting here just blown away on how far you’ve come. …We are going to take back all the information that we’ve gotten here today and look at ways in seeing how we can partner more with Liberty.”

The Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Re-entry is now under the directorship of Jay Sanders.

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