Program Gives Ex-Cons a Second Chance - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/14/05

Program Gives Ex-Cons a Second Chance

Many of the people who commit crimes in Chatham County have made a career of breaking the law as robbers, burglars, and shoplifters. But Savannah Impact is trying to break that cycle.

They started a reentry program for ex-cons who are not on parole or probation. Statistically, these people are very likely to commit more crimes and have no required supervision. But many of them are voluntarily turning to this program hoping it will help them turn their lives around.

Eric Jenkins has gone from the big house to painting houses. "I paint, do stucco, I do sheetrock," he said.

Jenkins just got out of prison in April. He served two years for a home invasion and a probation violation. "I think the most important experience I had is I know I don't want to live that way," he said. "I'm not going to say they prepared me, but in a way they did, because being locked up showed me I don't want to spend my life that way."

When Jenkins got out, the prison gave him $25 and bus ticket. He's says Savannah Impact's reentry program gave him a second chance at life.

"We're here to make sure they don't reoffend," said Officer Joe Davis of Savannah Impact. "We're here to help them get jobs, get clothes, a GED, driver's license program. Each one is different, so whatever their needs are, whatever we can do that's what we do."

And the ex-cons know they can turn to the officers if they're having problems, or even just a bad day. "The encouragement, and stuff that's between it, that's really good to have," said Jenkins.

There are 45 other men like him who take part in the Savannah Impact program. So far all of them have places to live, and none of them have committed a crime since they got out of prison.

That's huge, because in Georgia, three out of four ex-cons commit more crimes. But Jenkins feels certain his life of crime is behind him, and for now is painting his way to a better future.

Savannah Impact says, since the program has been such a success, they are getting calls from convicts still in prison who want to join the reentry program when they get out.

But it's only for violent criminals, sex offenders, career criminals and convicts who either lived in or were convicted in Chatham County.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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