Getting back on track

Published 7:59 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

For many offenders who have just been released from prison, it is difficult to keep to the “straight and narrow,” especially if they can’t find any help from the society in which they caused hurt or damage.

Because of this, many faith-based organizations and other groups have put new prison ministries into play for the sole purpose of helping released offenders do well once they return to society, including the Community Partnerships for Recovery and Re-entry (CRP Network) Program, a new group that has been established in Crenshaw County.

Jimmy Lester, Special Projects Coordinator for CRP Network, said that Alabama has over 29,000 people in prison presently, and over 10,000 of those will be returned to the streets.

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“Re-entry is somewhat of a new buzzword, and it’s what we’re focusing on,” Lester said.

“Sixty to seventy percent of those released from prison will commit another crime within one to two years,” he said, “and the kids who witness violence in the home are eight times as likely to become incarcerated, too, so it can become a generational thing.”

Lester said he worked with one family who had three generations incarcerated at the same time—a grandmother, a mother, and a juvenile.

“Imagine if you had nothing or no one to turn to,” Lester said. “Before long, many of them simply return to the life they led before because they can’t find any real help. To me, we have got to get out of the four walls of the church and help these people.”

Lester said that right now, church services are being held at the Crenshaw County jail most Monday nights.

The CPR Network includes different programs, including work programs that teach released offenders welding, carpentry, masonry, industrial electricity, and many other marketable skills.

“The problem is now we’re competing with displaced workers, too, because of the economy,” Lester said.

The CPR Network is currently meeting in Crenshaw County at the Harrison Cultural Center on South Forest Ave. in Luverne on the third Tuesday night of each month. The meetings begin at 7 p.m., and anyone interested in joining these efforts may attend. Curtis Petrey is the chairman.