Mayor Van Johnson announces inmate re-entry program

BySean Evans|July 8, 2020 at 9:34 AM EDT - Updated July 8 at 5:02 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -The City of Savannah announced the formation of a new task force focused on helping those formerly incarcerated or with a criminal history seek productive futures when they return to society.

The task force is called ARCS, standing for Advocates for Restorative Communities in Savannah.

“As a just and caring community, I believe we have the responsibility to do all we can to help them to be successful,” Mayor Van Johnson said Wednesday morning.

The ARCS taskforce brings together experts, including formerly incarcerated people, who currently work with those in the justice system. The goal is pooling their collective experiences to best serve those returning to Savannah from prison.

“Something so simple as obtaining identification becomes a major obstacle in the transition process,” said chairperson Katina Wheeler.

According to ARCS taskforce member and Georgia Southern University Professor Dr. Maxine Bryant, about four percent of all those in Georgia’s prisons call Chatham County home. Bryant says last year, Georgia’s Department of Corrections reported there were around 53,000 people inside their prisons.

“Four percent, that’s about 2,000 people, people who are currently incarcerated are probably going to be returning back to Chatham County,” said Bryant. “You add that year after year after year, and then it becomes clear that if we don’t do something we are a part of the problem, and not the solution.”

Bryant added two out of every three people who are released are re-arrested within three years.

“Not all of those arrests are new crimes,” she said. “Some of them are technical difficulties, technical violations. They couldn’t pay a fine because they didn’t have a job.”

One previously incarcerated taskforce member shared what difference she believes this taskforce can have on the community.

“I know what this does to people,” said Charlotte Garnes. “And I know the self-esteem and the benefits of having someone who’s pushing you and encouraging you and supporting you, and that’s one person. So imagine if a whole society and whole community is pushing, promoting and supporting me? I can’t stop.”

Photo: WTOC

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