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New pilot program aimed at helping prison inmates find jobs following release

Incarcerated Georgians about to leave the prison system will get a leg up on landing a job through a new pilot program unveiled Wednesday.

The Walking the Last Mile Reentry Program, to be administered by the Georgia Department of Labor in partnership with the state Department of Corrections, will provide inmates transitioning back to society individualized skills assessments, help them develop those skills based on their needs and interests, and assist them with job placement.

Key components of the initiative will include resume building, mock interviews, and connections to potential employers looking to fill open positions.

“The Walking the Last Mile program will help break the chains of incarceration by equipping participants with the skills and resources necessary for a successful reentry into society,” state Commissioner of Labor Bruce Thompson said during a news conference at the Chatham County Detention Center in Savannah.

“This innovative program is where opportunities begin for those who are seeking to embrace a fresh start and rebuild their lives.”

Recidivism rates in Georgia and throughout the nation have long been a challenge to public policy makers, due in large part to a lack of job opportunities and support for those reentering communities after being released from prison.

“By investing in rehabilitation and removing barriers to employment, we are creating opportunities for successful reentry,” Thompson said.

The program will launch next month from the Metro Reentry Facility in downtown Atlanta.

“Our goal is to give every person in the program the tools and support needed to land a good job,” said Joe Argo, who will manage the initiative for the labor department. “By tapping into people’s strengths and providing targeted assistance, we aim to help returning citizens find work and become productive members of society.”

To assess the program’s effectiveness, the labor department will monitor participants’ employment status at key milestones, including the number with job placements upon release, the rate of job retention within six months to a year, and the reduction in recidivism among participants. The assessments will guide the agency in expanding the program to other locations around the state.

The initiative is getting support from various business organizations, including the Georgia Association of Manufacturers and the Associated General Contractors of Georgia. The program will work in tandem with the state’s Work Opportunity Tax Credit program, which offers businesses tax credits for hiring qualified people who face barriers to employment.

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