The New Beginnings Program’s mission is to help formerly incarcerated individuals become productive members of society when they leave incarceration by giving them access to programs and resources that they need. Historically, 60% of former state offenders and 40% of former federal offenders return to crime and are rearrested within three years of their release. Research has shown that some of the primary causes for recidivism are substance abuse and addiction, mental and physical health conditions, limited education and vocational training, and the inability to find affordable housing. The New Beginnings program is designed to address the primary causes of recidivism and lower the recidivism rates in Georgia.
New Beginnings operates through the guidance of a steering committee led by the United States Attorney’s Office that includes the Urban League of Greater Atlanta (“Urban League”), Morehouse College School of Medicine, Davis-Bozeman Law Firm, Gate City Bar Association, United States Probation Office, Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Justice Project and the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency.
The reentry program includes an eight-week, curriculum-based component followed by a guided intensive job search component. The program presently has space for 15 formerly incarcerated persons per program cycle. The program is facilitated by Urban League at its downtown Atlanta headquarters located at Peachtree Center. In 2014, the program was included within a successful Project Safe Neighborhood grant proposal, which will support expansion of the program. Formerly incarcerated individuals, most of whom have been released from incarceration sometime within past six months, participate in the program voluntarily, and are referred to the program by an ever-growing collection of agencies, beyond those on the New Beginnings steering committee, which include faith-based organizations, non-profit organizations that provide services to the formerly incarcerated, walk-ins to the Urban League office, and referrals from other Urban League programs.
During the eight-week program, participants receive four days of content specific training each week at the Urban League, while the fifth day is left open for job search activities. Life skills and education basics are the centerpiece of the curriculum and include time management exercises, resume building, and guidance on mastering interviews. The program also provides personalized components to enable participants to not only express their concerns, but also to collaborate with trained project staff to develop realistic and attainable ways to overcome barriers.
Weeks one and five focuses on life skills training, identifying life skills related to the participants’ self-esteem, self-sufficiency, behavioral habits, and coping mechanisms. Weeks two and six continue with assessments of behavioral characteristics, such as anger management and conflict resolution (soft skills) of each participant and also introduce some training for career development. Weeks three and seven incorporate the previous lessons on soft skills by introducing components of critical thinking. Weeks four and eight provide participants with practical learning experience for job readiness and preparation, including a day devoted to time management.