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Floyd County, state leaders help kick off a pilot prison program to assist with re-entry into society

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Eight state prisoners returned home to Floyd County on Tuesday as the first participants in a new program that hopes to make their transition into normal society as positive as possible.

The eight men, all serving time for non-violent crimes, were selected to take part in the Floyd County Corrections’ FIRE program at the Floyd County Prison and Work Release Center.

As one of three pilot programs in the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Re-entry Initiative, FIRE — which stands for Focusing Impact on Re-Entry — will place each inmate on a custom path to becoming a contributing member of the community.

“You have an awesome opportunity in front of you,” Floyd County Prison Warden Jeff Chandler told the group. “To be better prepared to re-enter society, you need to be in the community where you’re from, where your resources are.”

With members of the DOC, state legislature, county administration and local law enforcement in attendance, Chandler and his staff gave a quick summary of the program to the inmates, who were chosen out of 56 potential candidates.

The participants will be assessed on what their specific needs are and then presented a schedule of classes designed to address those needs, such as substance-abuse treatment, resume writing, and GED classes.

They will then be able to be placed on a work detail and, later, receive training in the Work Release Center specific to the area in which they would like to find employment.

Prior to being released, each participant will complete job searches and be able to get a job, finalize housing and budget plans, and re-establish connections to family.

“This is literally a chance to change your life and the lives of your entire family,” Chandler said. “We’re investing in you, and those who follow you, to create a better society.”

Separated into four phases, the entire prisoner re-entry program is expected to last around 18 months.

“It depends on each case,” Chandler said. “Some may require more training than others, so it may be longer at times.”

Chandler said the work release center is already established, so there are no new costs associated with the FIRE program.

“Our County Commission and residents had already invested in it,” he said.

A 2006 SPLOST project, the Work Release Center was the Floyd County Commission’s answer to the question of how those in minor trouble with the law could rehabilitate themselves. It opened in 2009.