Served their time, struggling to serve the community, ex cons talk obstacles of reentering society

SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – Experts say hundreds in Chatham county try to re-enter society  after being in prison each year.
They add that those hoping to make a positive change, hit road blocks.

Georgia think tank groups report up to 50% of the state’s more than fifty thousand inmates are cases of recidivism.

“There’s a lot of barriers we’ve faced coming out of prison there’s a lot of barriers,” says former inmate Adrian Stackhouse.

In Georgia, felony drug charges could land you in prison for more than 15 years. Coming back after paying that kind of sentence has proven only a continuation of punishment.

“There is a term for people coming out of prison we call them returning citizens and yet we do not treat them as citizens,” says Armstrong State criminal justice professor Dr. Maxine Bryant.

For three years now, Dr. Bryant has asked ex-cons to speak to our community and inspire those trying to turn their lives around.

“Is everybody that gets out going to do the right thing, no, and it’s foolish for us to think so but there are so many people who have genuinely changed they’re thinking,” says Dr. Bryant.

Adrian Stackhouse was one of those speakers. He works with those transitioning and trying to find work while he himself works as a technician.
He served eighteen years behind bars and knows the obstacles they face.

“Just the convicted felon that it stamped on our back has made it really hard to fit in with society when there are certain things in society that doesn’t want to accept us.”

Many of these ex-cons are asked to check the box,answering for their prior drug charges when trying to get a home or a job in the state. “Ban the box” campaigns have created opportunities for ex-cons to work in the public sector. As they are working to change, Bryant wants society to also give them a chance.

“I want them to do it but they cannot do it in and of themselves, we need laws changed, we need the community to join together with them in the fight against unjust laws, those discriminatory barriers they shouldn’t exist,” says Bryant.

Former inmates go through a work release program at the Coastal transitioning center. Groups like WorkSource coastal as well as Savannah Impact work to give ex cons work and training.

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