“What if you were defined by the worst thing you ever did?”
By Rev. Russell Gray
That is a question faced by almost everyone leaving jail or prison. How do you know if your application for a job will even be looked at beyond the little box which questions if you have ever been convicted of a felony offense?
The only hope for an individual faced with this dilemma is to have someone to stand up for him or her to give them another chance. This is why the Greater Gwinnett Reentry Alliance Inc (GGRA), www.gwinnettreentry.org was organized as a Georgia Non Profit in 2014 and later approved to receive tax deductible donations by the IRS as a 501©3 charitable organization on May 25, 2015.
The GGRA got a big boost recently when Past President Pastor Lee Robbins (right) was selected by the Department of Community Supervision (DCS), www.dcs.georgia.gov, as Community Coordinator for the 9th Judicial District of Gwinnett. The DCS combines the functions of probation and parole plus the new Prisoner Reentry Initiative, (GA-PRI), which was birthed out of Governor Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform Legislation.
Pastor Lee is shown above delivering his inaugural address as Gwinnett’s new DCS Community Coordinator at a recent meeting of the GGRA. Pastor Lee, along with his wife Kim, are founders and co-pastors of the Source Church in Buford. Their close working relationship will allow Pastor Lee to devote most of his time to his new position as DCS Gwinnett Community Coordinator. As a pastor of a thriving church Pastor Lee will be in a great position to address one of his most pressing responsibilities, to enlist churches throughout the county as “stations of hope” for returning citizens (the preferred way to address former inmates).
Many men and women are released from the Gwinnett County Jail wearing only the clothes on their back when arrested, regardless of the weather outside. If no family or friends are there to pick them up all they can do is start walking. Sheriff Conway had long been concerned about this problem and in January 2012 the Gwinnett Reentry Intervention Program (GRIP) was announced as a joint funding agreement between the Sheriff’s Department, www.gwinnettcountysheriff.com, the Board of County Commissioners, and the United Way of Atlanta, www.unitedwayatlanta.org. By dedicating a Sheriff’s Deputy and a United Way Case Worker to talk to inmates expecting to be homeless upon release, the jail is now able to connect inmates to services before they get out. Some emergency services like housing and transportation are also made available through partnerships with local ministries (see www.judyhouse.org and bridgethegapministries.org).
GRIP has grown from just serving homeless inmates but also helping any inmate asking for help after release with their addictions and other needs as well. Many church volunteers and local pastors who visit at the jail also get involved by ministering to inmates during this difficult time of separation from friends and family.
What this means for Gwinnett County is rather than individuals revolving in and out of the Gwinnett County Jail and the State Prison system, they are able to go home and live productive lives where they can contribute to their surrounding communities; and in the process saving county taxpayers thousands of dollars by the jail having housed fewer inmates since GRIP started in 2012.
Would you like to receive more information about how to get involved? Please contact GGRA President Russell Gray, pictured above, leading a recent meeting of the GGRA. Rev. Gray can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his cell at 404 906 2681.