Community Champions: When the Debt is Paid conference

Updated: Oct. 7, 2020 at 3:43 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Dr. Maxine Bryant is a criminal justice professor at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus who takes her work out of the classroom.

“You have to see yourself beyond you rright now. Your right now will not be your forever,” Dr. Bryant said.

Dr. Bryant had her now-familiar message ready. And once again, an audience that needed to hear it most in front of her.

“The journey is hard enough. It’s riddled with a lot of boundaries that society imposes upon people when they have a criminal history,” Dr. Bryant said.

Dr. Bryant offered her "When the Debt is Paid'' conference for the fifth straight year last weekend to educate, inspire and inform individuals who have been impacted by the criminal justice system in the past and are seeking a better future.

“I want to let them know that there is hope, that there are others who have been where they are and have been successful.”

The six-hour session featured speakers who operate the system.

“Our goal, when we run into you, is that your debt is paid. And when we run into you, it’s as valuable members of our community,” Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter said.

And others who escaped it.

"No one is perfect. But the mistakes we have made through our lives, they don’t define who we are. They don’t define your future,' Jermaine Wilson said.

Wilson is an example of overcoming a troubled past, having gone from being a convicted felon to the mayor of Leavenworth, Texas. And he credits Dr. Bryant for taking him from law breaker to lawmaker.

“Your current situation is not your final destination.”

Dr. Bryant brought her program to Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus five years ago because this WTOC Community Champion is striving to build a better community.

“That’s why I do what I do, to let others know that whatever your challenge is as it relates to being justice impacted, you don’t have to let that title be your destiny. You don’t have to stop there.”

And for five years, she has been there to help them keep going.

“People need support. Together, we win. When our least wins, those with a criminal history, we as a society win. I’m committed to helping us win together.”

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