South Georgia center changes criminal mindset - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia center changes criminal mindset

March 29, 2004

Albany-- How do you get back on the right track when you have a criminal conviction in your past?

48,150 people are incarcerated by the Georgia Department of Corrections, and that number is rising. With the state cutting its budget, Transitional Centers are looked at as a way to move inmates back into society, and keep them from returning to prison.

Hubert Searcy makes some of the best pizza in Albany at Villa Gargano's. The 39-year-old Fitzgerald native is learning the restaurant business, as he finishes his nine year sentence for selling drugs.

Searcy is learning a trade, while serving time at the Albany Transitional Center. "I've benefited a lot. The center has given me an opportunity to go out, and get familiar with society once again."

Searcy is one of 150 residents at the Albany Transitional Center. They work full time jobs, and return to the center at night. Their rooms are stark, but not like a maximum security prison. Most of the men were sentenced to prison for property or drug offenses. It's cheaper to house residents here, and the Transitional Center teaches them how to live outside prison walls.

Albany Transitional Center Superintendent Carol Ellis said "For a lot of residents, this is the first time in their life they have had any kind of success. That they have ever had a job in the community. And while they are here, they are responsible, law abiding, tax paying citizens."

The transitional center helps find the residents jobs in restaurants or construction jobs. Thirty percent of the money they earn goes for food and board.

But most importantly for Hubert Searcy, it's a chance to start over. "I am going to take advantage of the opportunity that they present to me, and make the best of life."

The residents spend an average of six to eight months at the Transition Center, then move on to probation.

posted at 3:50PM by dave.miller@walb.com