(WGHP) — Jason Johnson felt he’d done everything society asked of him when he got into some trouble with the law.
“I feel like you do everything you can do to kind of change your image or prepare yourself for a second chance to reenter society and be successful and just having people not want to give you that chance, it was tough,” said Johnson, about the fact that no one would give him a job – even ones he was more than qualified for. “Kind of felt like a slap in the face.”
Sheena Beasley knows what Johnson is talking about. Beasley had her own scrape with the law that saw her go from a $52,000 salary to making less than $7 an hour, almost overnight. As hard as she worked to get back to where she was, she couldn’t get there so she began her own nonprofit organization called The Almond Connection. It works with people who are reentering society to do it more successfully.
“We’ve got to do something to assist those who are coming back into our neighborhoods and our communities to make sure that they are safe. So, if they’re not given second chances, I mean, how are they going to survive? What are they going to do? They’re going to go right back to what they were doing before,” said Beasley, about why recidivism rates are so high in some areas.
Guilford County Sheriff, Danny Rogers sees it first-hand. As sheriff, Rogers runs Guilford County’s two jails and sees the same people cycling through, time after time.
“Back and forth, back and forth,” said Rogers, shaking his head. “I see some of the same faces that were in there when I first came in the office and were back in there last week. It hurts because you wonder, what are we doing that’s not getting the message across? What are we doing to combat poverty, education, economic growth – opportunities for jobs?”
But Rogers thinks the message may finally be breaking through.
“People are beginning to understand that people need a second chance,” Rogers said. “Everybody has to have a support group; you have to have a support group.”
That’s where people like Beasley come in. Her organization and others like Prison Fellowship are working with people in prison to help them be more successful when they get out and a job is where all that starts.
Beasley says it’s a good investment for businesses.
“Numbers have shown that people with a background tend to be more loyal employees than one that have not committed a crime,” she says.
See more about how these groups are helping people successfully reenter society in this edition of the Buckley Report.