Governor Nathan Deal recently joined former Governor of Kentucky Ernie Fletcher along with HUD Southeast Regional Administrator Denise Cleveland-Leggett and sixty other leaders of public housing developments, corporate housing and development companies, State of Georgia Department of Community Affairs and Department of Community Supervision in the HUD Atlanta conference room to address in an open forum the challenges and opportunities to positively effect the lives of returning citizens or ex-offenders as it relates to a very basic human need - housing.
"Governor Deal and his staff are to be congratulated for their willingness to address and reduce recidivism and help us address the challenges of housing for returning citizens," said Cleveland-Leggett. "As we move forward with the innovative ideas expressed today I am hopeful that we will be a resource for continued positive change.”
Governor Deal related that after recognizing the challenges of recidivism that the Georgia Prisoner Reentry Intiative was created and is managed by the Department of Community Supervision. The State of Georgia is a leader in the nation in criminal justice reform as it is one of eight states with a declining recidivism.
Former Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher added that the ongoing efforts in Kentucky to address the opioid crisis both in urban and rural areas are finding success and shared those success stories as they relate to helping to possibly address increasing drug related incarceration and opioid death in Georgia and throughout the US.
Punctuating the open forum were the emotionally uplifting testimonials provided by three returning citizens as they explained the universal difficulty of incarcerations and being able to take advantage of second chance opportunities for job skills training with inability to find housing due to the negative stigma of having a criminal record. In each case it was either through the assistance of the Department of Community Supervision, and or compassion and understanding of loved ones and others that they could finally start a new life. The challenge of housing for them however persisted well after their release and those obstacles to finding a place to call home were addressed in the roundtable as one returning citizen found herself homeless at times.
While much has been accomplished there are approximately 40 percent of the returning citizen released from prison that return to state prisons within three years of their release. Often sited reasons for recidivism are the issues of housing, employment and the lack of supportive services. At least 95 percent of state prisoners will be released into their communities.