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Leon County Launches Program To Transistion The Convicted From Cellblock To Society

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Tom Flanigan
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Local officials and program partners held a gala ribbon-cutting for the RISE Center on July 20.

The vast majority of criminal offenders return to society, usually in no better shape than when they were locked up. Now a new effort in Leon County is attempting to change that. It's called the RISE Center and occupies a corner of the County's Health Department on Municipal Way. It's run by the Sheriff's Department, under the direction of Walt McNeil who said its purpose is simple.

"If we are able to put in place gainful employment opportunities for our formerly incarcerated citizens, then we improve the quality of life for every person living in Leon County."

Citizens like Carlos McCrae who now works at Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend.

"This is very big for people like myself who have been released from prison. Today, I'm a manager/assistant manager," McCrae remarked before the ribbon cutting.

Among the program's optimists, Second Circuit Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrum.

"Something is going to happen to those people when they get out and I'm extraordinarily hopeful that this gives us a chance to make the most of that human resource."

That resource now includes the formerly incarcerated at the county, state and even federal levels.