Every Thursday morning for two hours, the Rev. James Dixon of Greater Faith Baptist Fellowship downtown travels to the Alachua County Jail.
He enters a classroom where he talks with inmates, helping them prepare to re-enter everyday life — and the job market — after they’re released.
But a major topic of discussion that came up at a meeting about Dixon’s Bridges to Prosperity program last week was finding more work for inmates eligible for work release programs, Gainesville resident Herb Kieklak wrote in a recent email to city commissioners.
Walter Cason, executive director of the Brave Overt Leaders of Distinction program for former inmates, agreed reentry programs need help expanding.
“We need more support,” Cason said. “This is ... for young men to reclaim their place in society.”
During the summer, Dixon expanded his Bridges to Prosperity re-entry program, which focuses on financial stability and goal-setting, from a downtown meeting place into the county jail.
The expansion was at the request of Kristen Benedini, director of an inmate transition program that existed at the jail prior to Dixon’s program. She asked Dixon to step in and implement Bridges to Prosperity at the jail because it would complement hers, which helps inmates develop resumes, among other services.
Because of support inmates receive from these programs, Dixon said, they have the opportunity to become functioning members of society upon release.
“Before, I asked them, ‘How many of you all never thought you could achieve your dreams?’” Dixon said. “They all raised their hands. But, now, they know they can.”
A version of this story ran on page 4 on 9/13/2013 under the headline "Inmate programs seek expansion"