WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — After eight-and-a-half years behind bars, one Winston-Salem man now is adjusting to life after prison.  

He says a program for those entering society after incarceration gave him a sense of hope, connecting him with resources and job opportunities.

“One moment in my life does not define who I am. That message has always stuck with me. We have to be given the opportunity to see if we can become productive members of society again,” said Sanford Snider, a Project Re-entry participant.

Snider has been connected with Project Re-entry’s post-release program since he was released from prison in July 2022.

He was in prison for eight-and-a-half years

Project Re-entry’s goal is to help men and women who were once incarcerated by reintegrating them into society.  They work with people in several prisons across the state before and after release.

“I think the most impactful thing is when people say … that we gave them hope, especially the work that we do inside the prison system. We’re in there for 16 weeks, one day a week for an hour and a half, and we really develop a relationship with the men and women, and they really appreciate that because that gives them a springboard on how they’re going to enter the community better prepared than if they did not have us,” Project Re-entry Director and Cofounder Rebecca Sauter said.

Sanford connected with Project Re-entry’s post-release program when he entered transitional housing with On Wings Like A Dove in Winston-Salem.

Also a veteran, his Project Re-entry case manager helped connect him with Veteran Services of North Carolina.

Sanford said his journey over the last year and a half adjusting to his return to society was a challenge.

Project Re-entry has helped many like Sanford with job placement, computer classes and other resources.    

In the 2022 to 2023 fiscal year, the program helped 217 people in Forsyth County. Since the program began in 2003, it’s helped around 15,000 people in the state re-enter society after prison.

“The majority of the staff of Project Re-entry have been justice-involved, so there is already an unspoken understanding … this is like a safe place,” Sauter said.

This will be Sanford’s second holiday season out of prison.

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It’s his first working his new job with the State Department of Transportation, and he no longer living in transitional housing.

Through a partnership between the Piedmont Triad Regional Council and Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, Project Re-entry has been operating for 20 years, working in several prisons across North Carolina. 

They receive funding from the state, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina and the City of Winston-Salem.