People once considered high-risk offenders are being released back onto our streets. They're ready to lead productive lives thanks to a program called Savannah Impact. And not all of the graduates are old enough to be considered adults. For the first time ever, the program is rehabilitating youth offenders and making sure they get them back on track before their habits follow them into adulthood.
It was a special night for graduates at the Savannah Civic Center as family members along with community leaders bore witness to their accomplishments.
"It was either this or go to jail, and I obviously picked freedom," said graduate Jesse Priester.
Freedom to live as normal a life as possible, considering many of them have overcome battles with severe drug and alcohol addiction. Some have already done time for the crimes, and some are still juveniles. As they all stood as testimony of what they've been able to accomplish, many of the graduates said the Savannah Impact program helped them do the one thing they never thought possible.
"I quit before and I went back and when I got into this program, I learned the things not to do or what to do," said graduate Anthony Davis. "I learned what drugs are doing to my body and how my body was going to react once I quit and what to expect."
They're all from different economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds. Drug councilors say addiction holds no discrimination for men and woman of any age, and for these latest graduates, they're confident they won't be making the same mistakes they did back when their addictions ran their lives.
"If you're out there and you're looking for somewhere to go, talk to the people at Savannah Impact, see if they can help you, because it's a very rewarding program," said Davis.
According to Chief Dan Flynn of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, of all the 2,000 high-risk offenders that have gone through the Savannah Impact program over the past four years, only about 15 percent have fallen back on their addictions.
For information on Savannah Impact, contact program director Keith Vermillion at 912.651.4350.