Fresh start program; will help ex-cons stay out of prison - - Jackson, MS

Fresh start program; will help ex-cons stay out of prison

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Every year 600 convicted felons are released from prison and end up back in Jackson. However, once released, many of those former inmates wind up committing additional crimes and are back in jail. It's an epidemic Jackson Police Chief Rebecca Coleman sees time and time again.

"That's a common occurrence and concern as far as law enforcement is concerned," said Chief Coleman.

 According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, 27% of convicted felons in Mississippi who're released end up back in the system. A big factor is many ex-cons can't find jobs. That's something a group of City of Jackson and Hinds County leaders hope to change through a program called "Fresh Start." It's an initiative aimed to reduce the cycle of recidivism.

"A local community needs to have a plan in place to be able to address the issues individuals face when they're coming home particularly issues like employment and housing," said Louis Armstrong, the Deputy Director for the City  of Jackson's Department of Human and Cultural Services.

The "Fresh Start" task force is putting together a five year plan in hopes of acquiring federal funds to implement a successful recidivism reduction program.

"Right now it's at the formative stages where this task force has been implemented to come up with policies and procedures," said Chief Coleman.

The bulk of the policies and procedures that the task force is working on include providing better resources for inmates before they get out of jail.

"Job assistance, education assistance any type of court ordered programs they need to finish, things of that nature," said Jerry Williams, the Mississippi Department of Correction's Deputy Commissioner of Community Correction.

If the Department of Justice approves the "Fresh Start" five year plan, up to $750,000 could be used annually for the program.

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