GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Ninety-five percent of the people currently imprisoned in Guilford County will eventually be released. Many may end up back in jail. But, there is a program aimed at taking those offenders and morphing them into functioning, productive, permanent members of society.
Guilford County Reentry received funding about 11 months ago. In that time, they’ve worked with about 200 people who had been convicted of crimes, with the mission of preventing them from going back and forth to prison, while giving them support and resources.
"Case by case,” Edward “Chap” Williams said. “Everybody's situation is different."
Williams says some of the people in the program never served time, while others had been behind bars for much of their lives.
"I don't know how to access anything, I don't know how to use these phones,” Williams said, detailing a recent conversation with someone who had recently been released. "Went to the gas station, the gas pump started talking to me, and I had not a clue. Please, can you help me?"
Over the course of about a year, Williams said the reentry team will help the convicted move forward, whether it be getting a GED, a job, or reuniting them with their family.
"They come back, their kids were babies when they left, now they're adults,” Williams said.
Yet, some barriers take longer to be broken. One, is the stigma which accompanies their convictions.
"These folks have, they've done their time,” Williams added.
FOX8 spoke with two people who are in the reentry program; a man and a woman. Due to worry of a shift in perception by those with whom they work, they both requested to remain anonymous.
"I did serve 25 years,” the man said. “Incarcerated."
"It changed my family,” the woman said.
Both have now found what they call “gainful employment,” where they earn more than $10 an hour.
"Not just obtain it, but maintain it,” the woman added.
The man achieved a goal that – until recently - he hadn’t imagined was possible.
“Return back to society and accomplish this,” he said. "For me to be a first-time home buyer."
Through the 11 months, about 10 percent of those in the program are employed. However, that’s not a measure of the program’s effectiveness.
"Success could be that reunification with that family, success could be, 'I'm not using drugs anymore,’” Williams said.
About 17,000 people are released back into society after being convicted each year in Guilford County.
The Guilford County Sheriff's Office is asking to expand and enhance the program without using tax dollars.
According to a press release, “Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers, in his annual budget request, has requested to utilize the revenues generated by inmates to fund the Reentry Program. The detention centers provide commissary products and offer telephone privileges. The inmates pay for these products and services with their own funds. The sheriff is requesting the revenues to be used to pay for programs, training, and associated costs to assist the inmates upon their release-through the existing Reentry Program.”
It is the office’s belief that expanding the program will save tax dollars and increase public safety, while continuing to positively transform lives.