According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, unemployment presents a significant barrier to people who are formerly incarcerated. Unemployment rates for them are significantly high at over 27%.
An expansion of a program aimed to provide resources for those formerly incarcerated will now be available in the Big Bend.
The Big Bend AFTER Reentry Coalition's new Welcome and Wellness Center, which officially opened today, is designed to be a safe space for formerly incarcerated people to get access to different resources they need.
BBARC is a non-profit. Its goal is to increase public safety and reduce recidivism by providing resources, like housing, to formerly incarcerated people.
Dozens of community partners came together to see the new Welcome and Wellness Center and hear what it has to offer. In attendance was Bill Wyman. He's a mentor to four men at the Gadsden County Reentry center.
He said two of the main areas incarcerated people need the most help is employment and housing, so he's looking for resources to help them. "The more I know about what facilities and what programs are available, the more I can do to pass that information on to the men I meet with and to give them referrals," said Wyman.
Some of the programs the new community center will offer include support groups and mentoring, wellness and skill-building workshops, GED classes and a library.
Wyman said having one place that he can refer people to makes it easier for them to get help. "Having this center now is even making it even more accessible for folks so that's a good thing," said Wyman.
Coordinator Elaine Webb is excited to open their doors and continue helping people with the reentry process. "What we're hoping for with the center is to offer programming for people who are formerly incarcerated to meet their educational and social needs," said Webb.
Jessica Yeary is a Public Defender in the second judicial circuit. She is happy to have BBARC take over the case for them once their clients are ready to go home.
"So, knowing that there's one place they can come for safety, where they're going to be respected and treated with dignity, but also giving a helping hand with everything they need to try and help them move on with their life," said Yeary.
In addition to helping them move on, she said it'll also reduce recidivism. "It's going to have a positive impact both for our clients and for public safety in general, making sure that everyone isn't touched by the system anymore," Yeary added.