Mississippi, New Way Seek to Reduce Recidivism

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Jackson, Miss. Ex-offenders are struggling to find their place in society, post-prison. New Way Mississippi partners directly with the Department of Corrections to try to help them on their way.

Program participants get a second layer of accountability while on earned release supervision.

Kerry Conerly stepped out from behind bars just three weeks ago. He came straight to New Way Mississippi.

“They definitely gave me hope," said Conerly. "They don't take my past and hold it against me.”

Conerly was in custody for two years on a drug sale charge. With the help of New Way, he has already found a job prospect.

“Most places would close the doors in our faces for a job hunt and stuff, but this gives us a second chance at life,” he said.

There's no one who understands the importance of being an advocate for these men more than president and CEO Larry Perry.

“I think that we'll find that we will have some young men who really really will be contributing to our society in a very positive way,” Perry said.

The program doesn't focus on any one area to get the men back on their feet. They instead do a whole range of things like providing a place to live, mentoring, job training and placement. All the while, participants set goals.

“It's very important for them to be specific in terms of what they want do," said Perry. "And then looking at what's their capacity. What's their education level? Many of these guys get a GED when they're incarcerated and that was a tremendous help.”

Ex offender Anthony Johnson says 'thank you' isn't enough.

“Right now, this is all I have,” said Johnson.

He says he feels like a changed man after nearly two years in the program.

“They've done nothing else but be a family to me," Johnson said. "So now I'm trying, you see?”

“Thank you for not throwing me away, for giving me a second chance,” Conerly said.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said in a statement that the state needs more of these kinds of programs to lower Mississippi's incarceration rate.