CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Chatham County Detention Center had a unique graduation ceremony on Friday.
It celebrated a group of men and women who participated in a program designed to help inmates get their lives back on track for good.
A lot of people have the perception that the Chatham County Corrections Center is just a place where men and women sit in a cell and do their time after being arrested. Sheriff John T. Wilcher wants it known that he and his team don't believe in that.
They believe in correcting and getting people to a place where they can leave the detention center and choose a better life.
State Representative Carl Gilliard said the New Beginnings program is a conflict resolution program that actually changes lives. New Beginnings is what all of these inmates signed up for when they expressed interest in the program provided by Gilliard and Wilcher.
"The success is tremendous because we're producing champions. The sheriff's department has allowed other programs that will help equip them when they leave," Gilliard said.
Gilliard said the program is all about second chances. The first step after graduating is finding a home that is suitable, finding employment and a support system.
"I always say, 'do you want a cheerleader or do you want a coach?' The cheerleader is going to tell you all the good things, but that coach is gonna whip you into shape and hold you accountable," Gilliard said.
The coach who was brought in Friday was two-time super bowl champion Tyrone Poole.
"It's not about the individual. It's about the family. Like they say, it takes a village, and if we all can come together and we can be bridges to connect those who have failed in life to those who are successful, then we can live in a world where everybody's happy to live in."
Friday's group was the thirteenth class to graduate, and Gilliard said they are seeing about a 70 to 75 percent breaking recidivism rate as far as people who are coming back into the system. This isn't just a program where they hand them a certificate. They follow up with them to keep them on the right track after being locked up.