Armstrong Conference focuses on Jobs for Ex Cons and Gun Violence Initiative

SAVANNAH, GA (WSAV-TV) – They’ve done their time and now they’re in search of an opportunity.

Often though ex convicts are turned away because of their records.

So, for a second year criminal justice professionals and local law enforcement are reaching out to help ex cons rejoin society and the workplace.

A lot has changed to make it easier for ex convicts to enter the workplace at the public level. A constant message in this conference though is the importance of education and curbing recidivism.

“Ninety, over ninety percent of people who are incarcerated are going to return back to our communities so as I always say it’s not if they’re coming back but when,” asks Armstrong State University professor in criminal justice Dr. Maxine Bryant.

Byrant adds that when former inmates come back they still struggle with criminal records tying them down from moving forward in the labor force.

“All things being equal who do I select the person without the record or the person with the record?… Many employers say okay I’m going to go with the person that’s the least risk.”

At the public level in Georgia, ex cons no longer have to check the box on job applications and that’s something Bryant says is a step in the right direction to stop recidivism. Kenneth Powell is proof going from having a criminal record to being an entrepreneur.

“I just kept at it and the business kept growing and growing and here we are today I own a landscaping company slash plant nursery.”

He adds that none of that came easy. Bryant and law enforcement echo to those hungry for normalcy and a job that society will not make is easy for them. Voting rights to being a community servant helping curb Savannah’s gun violence were also shared during keynote and panel discussions with the former inmates now looking to be regular citizens.

“It can be done you’re mind frame has to change before you even enter society because if your mind frame hasn’t changed before you enter society you’re going to come out with the same mind frame and then the results are going to always be the same,” says Powell.

Dr. Bryant hopes to make the conference an annual event sponsored through the university.

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