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LCSO opens RISE Center, VEER Program to help get former inmates back on their feet

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office is aiming to help inmates and former inmates get back on their...
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office is aiming to help inmates and former inmates get back on their feet after release.(WCTV)
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:22 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Leon County Sheriff’s Office is aiming to help inmates and former inmates get back on their feet after release. Two new programs aims to help inmates and former inmates get that second chance.

Wednesday, LCSO held grand openings today for their Re-entry, Innovative Services and Empowerment (RISE) Center and Vocational Educational Encouraging Reform (VEER) Program.

Sheriff Walt McNeil said they want to be able to provide former and current inmates with tools they need to be successful once released from jail or prison.

“If they are not helped, if their lives are not changed when they enter into our doors that they continue to have those negative impacts in our community,” said McNeil.

WCTV spoke with one former inmate who said these types of programs changed his life.

“These programs help a whole lot, tremendously,” said Carlos McCray.

McCray says he was locked up for a lengthy prison sentence, and before being released, he was unfamiliar with many tools we use every day.

“If somebody’s been gone over a decade, they might not really be able to use the telephone or they are not very familiar with going online or things of that nature,” McCray explained.

LCSO’s Rise Center will pair former inmates with case managers to help them with housing, jobs, money management and counseling services.

Right next door to the center, for those who are still incarcerated, LCSO’s Veer Program offers vocational training to obtain skillsets and certifications prior to release.

“Some of them don’t have the skills, they never had a job, never had a paycheck, so, ‘how do I pay bills?’ or ‘how do I even balance a checking account?’ Basic things that we take for granted are skills that they’ve never been introduced to,” said Assistant Sheriff over Detention, Judicial and Re-entry, Steve Harrelson.

Public defender Jessica Yeary said not only do these programs have a direct effect on reducing recidivism, but this will show employers and business owners that men and women with records are more than their charge, conviction and criminal history

“These programs give people the opportunity coming out of incarceration to be successful, but also gives us the opportunity on the front end to try and negotiate for our clients to not be incarcerated and to promote alternatives to incarceration and sentencing,” said Yeary.

For people like McCray, he hopes inmates and former inmates take advantage so they are turned on the right path to success

“Don’t give up,” McCray encouraged. “Yesterday might have been the worst day of your life, but there is sunshine the next day.”

LCSO said they partnered with dozens of community organizations and local employers to provide these services, and inmates from Juvenile Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons and surrounding counties can utilize the rise center.

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