Help is coming for repeat offenders in the Catoosa County Jail who are looking for a more productive life. Sheriff Gary Sisk announced a program Tuesday aimed stopping the revolving door in the justice system through a new mentor program called Project CHANGE, or Community Helping Accomplish Necessary Growth and Empowerment.
Leaders in health, education and law enforcement listened for details about why Sisk is launching a mentorship program for his inmates.
"So many people who have been incarcerated, or in trouble with the law (who) don't have the support that some of us had when we were growing up," said Sisk.
The goal is to counsel non-violent repeat offenders who want break the cycle of concrete walls and metal beds. Inmates who are leaving on probation will be paired with a mentor.
"Everyone's not going to change, but I think the key is ... a mentor who has an interest in that person, who offers them hope, who says not just pretty words, but (that) we are going to help you one step at a time," said Brenda Freeman Short, a counselor with Community Bridge Builders, Inc.
The gradual approach includes getting local churches and business leaders involved.
"If we have people that are working in this mentor program and they're trying to better their lives, then we also need businesses that are willing to take second chances for them," said Sisk, in reference to businesses hiring offenders.
The sheriff said the program is all volunteers, and there are no grants or taxpayer money involved.
Commissioner Brian Owens, of the Georgia Department of Corrections, said similar types of programs across the state have helped cut down the number of people currently incarcerated.
"Those courts deal with people with addiction, mental illness, veterans courts, to hold them accountable before they hit the prison system but at the same time offer them treatment services to keep them out of the prison system," said Owens.
Sisk gathered information from churches and other groups that are interested in getting involved, and his office will compile that information to know what resources are available to inmates, which ranges from Narcotics Anonymous to people who want to get a GED.By Briona Arradondo