Georgia Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson today unveiled the Walking the Last Mile reentry program, a new initiative administered by the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) in partnership with the Georgia Department of Corrections. The program aims to train and support returning citizens transitioning from incarceration back to the private sector by equipping them with the tools necessary for employment and life beyond the criminal justice system.
During a press conference at the Chatham County Detention Center, Commissioner Thompson announced the launch of the pilot program, which will provide individualized skills assessments, essential skills development, and job placement assistance prior to reentry. The goal is to mitigate or eliminate the barriers to gainful employment and create a seamless path to self-sufficiency, as well as matching them with community support partners.
“The Walking the Last Mile program will help break the chains of incarceration by equipping participants with the skills and resources necessary for a successful reentry into society,” said Commissioner Bruce Thompson. “This innovative program is ‘where opportunities begin’ for those who are seeking to embrace a fresh start and rebuild their lives.”
The initial pilot program is set to launch in December 2023 from the Metro Reentry Facility in Downtown Atlanta and has already received support from the Georgia Association of Manufacturers, the Associated General Contractors of Georgia, and many others.
“Partnerships which afford us the opportunity to provide returning citizens with essential life skills for reentry is vital to their success,” said Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Tyrone Oliver. “I am truly grateful to work hand-in-hand with Commissioner Thompson and GDOL in assisting these individuals on their journey to become productive citizens of Georgia.”
Metro Reentry Facility also shared their enthusiasm for hosting the inaugural Walking the Last Mile program, stating, “Every person deserves a second chance,” said Metro Reentry Deputy Warden Yolande Fraser. “We are proud to team up with GDOL on this important initiative that will provide both job placement and soft skills training to help returning citizens.”
A cornerstone of this mentorship-based program lies in recognizing the unique skills, experiences, and challenges of returning citizens. Working closely with a dedicated GDOL project manager, participants will develop a customized plan focused on their individual needs, abilities, background, and professional aspirations. The program features thorough assessments to identify participants’ talents, interests, and readiness to reenter the workforce. Key components include resume building, mock interviews, and connections to potential employers searching to fill open positions.
“Our goal is to give every person in the program the tools and support needed to land a good job,” said Joe Argo, GDOL Walking the Last Mile Program Manager. “By tapping into people’s strengths and providing targeted assistance, we aim to help returning citizens find work and become productive members of society.”
To assess the program’s effectiveness, the GDOL will monitor the employment status of program participants at key milestones, including the number of individuals with job placements upon release, the rate of job retention within six months to a year, and the reduction in recidivism for the participant population. This evaluation will guide the department’s efforts to expand the program, with the goal of serving more Georgians statewide at various locations.
Recidivism rates in Georgia and across the U.S. remain high, due in large part to a lack of job opportunities and support for those reentering communities after incarceration. The Walking the Last Mile program helps address this issue by connecting participants to career opportunities, as well as support services that set these individuals up for long-term success.
“Programs like Walking the Last Mile are critical to filling gaps in Georgia’s workforce and helping Georgians get their lives back on track,” said Commissioner Thompson. “By investing in rehabilitation and removing barriers to employment, we are creating opportunities for successful reentry and a safer, more prosperous Georgia for all.”
As an added benefit to employers, the Walking the Last Mile initiative will work in tandem with the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program, which offers tax credits for hiring qualified individuals who face barriers to employment.
For more information on how Georgia businesses can get involved, partner with us, and access a pool of work-ready talent, please contact Joe Argo, Program Manager for the Walking the Last Mile program, at email@example.com.