LUMBERTON — A prison inmate re-entry program that has been praised for its local success still has to win the support of state budget conferees if it is to receive state money over the next two years.
Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat from Lumberton, said that the House budget includes $425,000 to be allocated among five re-entry councils statewide that have been part of a three-year pilot program aimed at easing the way for released inmates back into society. The Southeastern Re-entry Council, which includes Robeson, Scotland and Hoke counties, would receive $100,000.
According to Graham, a member of the House Justice and Public Safety Appropriations Subcommittee, the proposed House budget also calls for the establishment of another re-entry council that would be made up of Green and Lenoir counties. He said he was also able to get a special provision into the bill that would establish a state-level collaborative committee of agency representatives that can assist the county level councils in hurdling policy barriers that can interfere with the success of their programs.
The state Department of Public Safety defines a local re-entry council as “an organized network of agencies and individuals from different disciplines and backgrounds that have a role or significant interest in helping people successfully transition from correctional supervision, including prisons, probation, parole and or post release supervision.”
Graham said that the re-entry council of which Robeson County is a member has been successful in helping former inmates in their efforts to find jobs, obtain housing, acquire driver’s licenses and other necessary documents, and find means of transportation.
“I think this is working,” Graham said. “People make mistakes but they are not going to be in prison forever. I’m sure some of them are destined to return to the system, but if we help them with these needs it is less likely they will face the conditions that landed them in prison in the first place … . I believe that if we can give somebody hope, and convince them there are opportunities for them, they may not go back to the bad habits that got them in trouble.”
Graham said that he believes the Senate will go along with the House recommendation that there be state financial support for the councils. Gov. Roy Cooper already has indicated his support.
“The governor is a strong supporter of re-entry councils,” Graham said. “He has proposed in his budget funding for the establishment of eight new councils.”
Robeson County last year chipped in $10,000 to support the Southeastern Re-entry Council, and has included another $10,000 in its fiscal 2017-18 budget that becomes effective July 1.
The state funding for the re-entry council pilot program is slated to expire on June 30.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.