Hamilton Center Announces New Citizen Program

Hamilton Center provides individuals a second chance through “New Citizen Program”

At some point in life, every one of us needs a second chance to recover from a mistake, and usually, we get that chance. For those who have been convicted of a crime, a second chance can mean greater opportunity for a productive life, but finding businesses and organizations willing to give them that chance is not always an easy task. In 2013, Hamilton Center CEO Melvin L. Burks realized the challenges that these individuals were facing and created a program to provide some of those second chance opportunities in our community.

Hamilton Center employees, who are success stories from the New Citizen Program spoke at the Chamber of Commerce on April 23.

Second Chance Month, which takes place throughout April, was born out of the Second Chance Act, law passed by Congress in 2008 that supports work to improve reentry outcomes in communities across the country.

Hamilton Center is proud to be a strong supporter of these efforts in our community through the “New Citizen Program.”

The “New Citizen Program” is designed to guide those who have been incarcerated into a new way of life. The participants complete a one-year probationary period where they train in four different areas of the Corporation to gain skills and experience. Throughout the program the “New Citizen” meets with a team of mentors led by Hamilton Center CEO, Melvin L. Burks. The opportunity is life-changing for someone who has been involved in the criminal justice system and is willing to turn their life around. The program offers support from Hamilton Center staff and community leaders to bring confidence and motivation to formerly incarcerated individuals who are willing to become a new citizen.

The Program allows two individuals to participate per year. One male and one female are chosen from a set of interviews conducted by the CEO and the leadership team. The elements of the program include:
• Daily interactions with mentors and other positive role models
• Weekly meetings covering current position, family, and transition from incarceration
• One-year probationary period working in 4 different departments for 3 months each
• Participation in community events and fundraisers

Inmates are often eager to leave behind the challenges presented by incarceration. Too often, however, they find the transition to life outside of prison to be daunting. If they are not able to find jobs and housing and rebuild relationships with family and friends, they may find it harder to escape the cycle of reoffending. In fact, 5 out of 6 State prisoners are rearrested within 9 years of their release, and more than a third of former Federal prisoners will be rearrested within 5 years of their release. In addition to the harm caused to the victims of crime, these high recidivism rates place a significant financial burden on taxpayers, deprive our labor force of productive workers, and leave families without spouses, children, and parents.

The “New Citizen Program” and Second Chance Month are about supporting those who have made bad decisions and providing them with the second chances they need to start a new life, and travel down a supported path to success – not just for their benefit, but also for the benefit of our communities. Hamilton Center celebrates those who have exited the prison system and successfully reentered society and renew our commitment to providing support and resources that former inmates need to meet their responsibilities, rediscover their self‑worth, and benefit from the gift of a second chance. We also express our sincere gratitude to all those who play a significant role in helping reduce recidivism, including other organizations and employers who are willing to hire workers notwithstanding a criminal history. By reducing recidivism and putting former inmates on the path to success, we can not only reduce crime but also strengthen our communities.

For more information about the “New Citizen Program,” visit www.hamiltoncenter.org/programs/new-citizen/,
or call 812-231-8323.

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