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First round of graduates complete ‘Renewed for Reentry’ program

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Rachael Howle accepts her “Renewed for Reentry” diploma from Sheriff Mark Pettway. (CBS42.com)
Times staff report 

Nineteen men and women are prepared for life after incarceration following the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office program “Renewed for Reentry”.

Sheriff Mark Pettway started the program as a way to help repeat offenders. The program is designed to reduce the recidivism rate by providing education and job opportunities for individuals that are currently in the Jefferson County Jail.

“The students may be the ones graduating, but I feel like I’ve been the one that’s been in class,” Pettway said. “While educating these men and women on what they can do to be productive citizens of the county we’ve learned from them on what resources are needed to ensure that they continue down this straight and narrow path. They have shown me that my efforts to reduce the revolving door are working and collectively we can work together to ensure that these men and women are not repeat offenders.”

A graduation ceremony for the participants took place on Friday, Nov. 15. at the Mel Bailey Criminal Justice Center in downtown Birmingham.

“This is actually the first time that I’ve had everything that I’ve needed to transition out of incarceration and into the real world,” said graduate Rachael Howle.

The program lasted three weeks. Students received counseling services, money management training, job training, and learned about resources available to help them successfully transition back into society.

“It gave them the opportunity to have people to work with them, to help them see themselves as in a positive light, where some of them, they don’t feel like anyone gives them a second chance to do things differently, but through this program they are given the opportunity to do so,” said clinical counselor Rakita Jackson.

During the course, Howle says employers were brought to her. She says she was able to interview for openings that would provide her a career.

“Basically, everything has been thrown in our lap and given to us for us to run into an easy transition out of the jail and into the real world,” says Howle.  

The first graduating class was all smiles receiving their diplomas from the course. 

Chaplain Willie Hardley says this is the first step and the transition will not be easy.

“It’s going to be hard, but with the help of God, they can, but they need to, because they’ve got to have a positive influence, and right now this program has helped them look at a new perspective of life,” says Hardley.

Howle says she is ready to make the most of her second chance.

“The ball is in our court, so if we drop it — we’re a fool.”

Partners of the program include Lawson State Community College, The Dannon Project, The Steel Workers Trust, and a number of Central Alabama businesses. The program was implemented through three phases that included a ready to work phase; training to work phase and Friday’s graduation and release.

www.cbs42.com  contributed to this post.